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Dear WG: 3 deep faults of the CV rework design

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Really excellent post. I hope this passes in front of at least somebody at WG's eyes. The reason that I have always believed CVs to be fundamentally broken is the pure lack of gameplay against them. CVs play a PvE game against AA mechanics and for surface ships, CVs add essentially nothing positive to the game, as you simply hope the enemy CV is bad enough to fail his skillchecks.

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I am not sure a more "fiddly" AA system would add anything to the game. As a. matter of fact, if they want to keep the sector defense system they currently have, it needs to be computer controlled. Just click on the incoming planes like the old days and let the computer manage the sectors. Playing AA guns is almost as bad as playing the airplanes. I really don't see a point of adding more crap to do in a battle when you are busy shooting targets and avoiding incoming fire, looking for torps, and avoiding aircraft attacks... 

Edited by Taylor3006
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I have red many complains about CVs and many poorly though ideas. I got to say you can go take them all back to school with this. I have though long too about how to improve the interaction but could never come up with something manual that fitted with the arcade style of wows. I have to say you got my up vote and i hope wg takes your feedback on all points on this. Is pretty late but your post gave me tons of ideas i will have a better response tomorrow :Smile_honoring:

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33 minutes ago, Edgecase said:

TL;DR: AA needs to be reworked so ships aren't punished for taking good firing positions, so that there's actual player-in-the-loop controls, and a redesign of flakbursts seems like a good place to start.

You're an optimist. This is way to0 sensible to ever be implemented. But upvoted anyway...

Edited by Taichunger
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42 minutes ago, Edgecase said:

Dear WG developers,

Please consider this an open letter regarding what I consider to be three deep-rooted and critical flaws of the CV rework.

While not directly relevant to the argument I am presenting, I will volunteer that I consider myself to be a moderately proficient CV player, but highly familiar with the mechanics. Also, while I make no claims to being a master strategist, I have spent considerable time in competitive gameplay environments, including ones with rework CVs. I have also played hundreds of normal games post-rework in all ship classes. Thus, I am not speaking from a lack of experience or perspective.

Finally, you may notice underlying these three complaints do not center around the CVs themselves. They are all rooted in the current dynamics of the AA system. This is, I believe, an accurate assessment of where the fault lies.

---

Major issue #1: Punishing isolation = Punishing positioning
Power against ships in spaced positions is antithetical to the rest of the power projection mechanics in the game

  Hide contents

One fundamental ingredient of both pre- and post-rework CVs is that they are extremely punishing to ships that travel alone. Putting aside differences in how and how much this is the case, I would like to point out that punishing "being alone" is showstoppingly problematic. In randoms, this certainly makes players feel bad, especially stealth-focused destroyers who can no longer effectively flank the enemy team for big torpedo damage. But I believe the damage to competitive settings will be far more extensive, potentially lethal to some formats.

To understand why, recall that one of the most critical skill-based elements in the game is positioning. In World of Warships, this primarily consists of ensuring that ships on a team have different angles of attack on a target. Such arrangements of ships allow penetrating AP hits, eliminate a ship's ability to "go dark", and allow island cover to be overcome. Map positioning is one of the key currencies of the tactical realm, as vital as HP, ships, and capture points.

In order to achieve desirable positioning, ships must spread out. For obvious reasons of geometry, individual ships get farther apart as the number of ships on a team decreases. Thus, in a 7v7 Clan Battles format, ships must often be separated by 5-10km or more in order to take key tactical positions.

Herein lies the problem. A current cornerstone of CV design in this game is that CVs punish ships that are alone (due to a lack of AA stacking). The conflict should be clear: the CV design tenet of "punish being alone" is in direct conflict with the entire rest of the game's positioning dynamic of "spread out for good firing positions". As a player, this a painfully conflicted design. The team either needs to spread out and present ideal targets for air strikes, or ball up and set itself up to be the victim of crossfire. This muddled set of priorities leads to similarly muddled gameplay.

The reality, of course, is that smart teams will do something in between the two extremes. In the King of the Sea 8 event, our clan's battle doctrine called for functional groups of 3 ships that would always travel together. This allowed us to have three functional battlegroups on the map, providing an adequate amount of map coverage while not leaving any single ship vulnerable to repeated air strikes. HOWEVER, keep in mind that KotS allows a 9v9 format -- 33% more non-CV ships on the map (8) than Clan Battles (6). Trying to do the same thing in 7v7 would have left us with only two functional groups, or reduced the size of each group to 2 ships (which is not actually enough to deter a CV strike). Furthermore, these groups almost always needed to include a Worcester or Minotaur, in order to provide a serious deterrent against skilled CV players. In the end, the fact that CVs punish isolated ships forces ships to travel in groups, and greatly favor heavy AA ships (so that groups can be created with fewer ships) -- these amount to a major penalty to freedom of movement, positioning, and team comp diversity.

In short, the apparent design objective that CVs should be strong against isolated ships is in direct conflict with the game's core positioning mechanics, especially in cases of small teams. This is a recipe for CVs to have a toxic effect on Clan Battles, should they be introduced.

---

Major issue #2: AI-controlled AA is not counterplay
Computer-controlled AA fails to provide either skill-based interaction or a sense of agency

  Reveal hidden contents

Interesting gameplay interactions come about because of opportunities for players to make decisions that affect the encounter's outcome. Players' ability to make these decisions in response to other players' decisions ("counterplay") are important, for both objective (game-deciding) and subjective (players feel they have control) reasons. Such back-and-forth has the further effect of making these player versus player interactions skill-based in their outcome.

The current system of computer-controlled AA has virtually none of these qualities. While a small number of ships (mostly destroyers) can use concealment mechanics to counterplay (non-divebomber) CV strikes, cruisers and battleships rely on AI-controlled AA as their primary form of "counter" to planes. I say "counter" and not "counterplay" here because honestly there is basically no gameplay involved in the current AA system. There is nothing the player can do to influence the flakbursts or guaranteed AA damage output of their ship, other than toggle an abstract "priority sector" setting, and in most cases, doing so does more harm than good. This is because most plane attacks involve overflying the target, and thus the defending ship needs to get its priority sector to "flip" to the far side at exactly the moment the planes fly overhead, effectively pre-guessing the timing up to 12 seconds in advance. And if they do it just right, the reward is a 25% increase in damage ticks. However, as things currently stand at T10, it's almost impossible to kill incoming planes with a single ship's damage ticks alone; nearly all plane kills occur while exiting the target zone, so increased incoming dps doesn't actually accomplish much, and if you botch the flip, you don't even get the full exit damage.

This essentially noninteractive setup fails on three major points:

  1. It is boring -- there is a missed opportunity for gameplay in general here [lack of interaction]
  2. It allows no impact of skill on the defender's part because there's so little to actually do [lack of skill impact]
  3. It prevents the defender from feeling they had any active part in the interaction [lack of subjective agency]

Essentially, the AA system we have today is not a gameplay system at all, it is a lack of gameplay.

---

Major issue #3: Flak bursts are a basic skillcheck with no further purpose
Flak obliterates novices but does nothing to skilled players; bad feedback mechanisms make it very hard to learn how to deal with flak

  Reveal hidden contents

One of the stated purposes of the CV rework was to reduce the gap between high- and low-skill carrier players. However, the current dynamics of the flakburst system have exactly the opposite effect. Experienced players avoid flak so effectively that it may as well not exist for them. Flak thus only affects inexperienced players. Unfortunately for them, it is also one of the most punishing elements of the AA system, capable of destroying entire squadrons in an instant.

Further, learning how to deal with flak is difficult, as the game provides very poor indications as to how players should do so. The most effective technique is proactive course changes, but most players attempt to dodge reactively (which ceases to be effective around T8). No visual tells, timers, reminders, or other in-game methods are used to indicate to players that they were shot down because they failed to initiate a course change 2-3 seconds prior. Further techniques for mitigating flak damage are also extremely opaque: TBs are immune to flak during the run but the airburst animations continue; throttle juking is effective during a rocket strike, but feedback is several seconds delayed; the animation at the start of a level or dive bomber attack run can be used to "jump over" a line of flak. None of these are in any way obvious or intuitive. Even the sound effect is the same for plane damage taken due to unavoidable "tick" damage and plane damage taken from flak. In short, all the normal feedback mechanisms for learning to play better with respect to flak are poor, broken, or outright misleading.

The net effect is simple: flak bursts create binary skill check for CV play and nothing more. If you're good, you don't die to them, and they do nothing -- they become a dead mechanic. If not, you get wiped out without dropping a single bomb or torpedo. And the game provides no help getting from one state to the other. What does this add to the game for anyone except frustration and confusion? This is also a major waste of a mechanic that could potentially be redesigned to fix some of the other problems above.

---

You may notice that some of the common CV complaints did not make this list. That is because I believe many of them are only issues in the first place because of the above three. For instance, "Infinite planes": If every interaction between a surface ships and an aircraft squadron felt good and provided opportunities for rewarding counterplay, it wouldn't be an issue how often they happened (or at least not nearly as much). Similarly, 2CV or even 3CV battles would not be an issue if CVs added opportunities for fun, rather than a void of non-gameplay.

---

Final thoughts: Since I'm always loathe to leave without a suggestion, I'll propose something radical here. The game needs an AA Rework. The problems above could be solved by giving every (large) ship in the game similar AA potential, but allowing ships to vary in the way they manifest their AA -- let players toggle (with the ~ key) different flak patterns and timings. Give some ships with historically weak AA hard-to-use, but not ineffective AA options. Then get rid of AA stacking. Entirely. This way, every ship in the game has a chance to defend itself, and CVs don't choke off mobility and positioning. I'm sure this is not a usable idea as written, but bizarre as it is, I'm not sure it would be worse than what we already have today.

Sincerely,
[-K-] Edgecase - NA

 

TL;DR: AA needs to be reworked so ships aren't punished for taking good firing positions, so that there's actual player-in-the-loop controls, and a redesign of flakbursts seems like a good place to start.

I like the last two points but disagree with the first. Not that it's wrong just that I feel forcing better fleet movements and choices is good. 

CVs also add a diminishing returns on AA. So that the longer fire fights last the stronger the CV gets.  This is an added encouragement to eliminate the reds quickly vs winning the war of attrition.

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Thank you for putting this together! You nailed a lot of the core criticisms/problems. I hope WG actually takes some of these issues to heart and fixes these problems. Despite my serious misgivings regarding CVs in the overall meta I lean towards wanting to see the class balanced appropriately with surface ship players given agency in the relationship. This CV rework failed to correct the core issue surrounding CV balance- every surface ship vs surface ship interaction can be described as a PVP interaction with both parties having full agency in regards to their individual performance; the CV vs surface ship interaction can be characterized as a PVE interaction with surface ships entirely dependent upon computer controlled AA for defense with minimal input beyond ship selection at match start. In a surface ship vs surface ship scenario you can directly damage/remove/avoid the party that is attempting to go after you. The CV-surface ship interaction has no decision making process or agency involved beyond pressing a single button to transfer AA effectiveness in hopes that the computer system protects the ship. Either that ship has an AA defense that will wipe the entire squadron via flak or the ship will be eliminated over a series of unpreventable strikes. 

I hope WG actually devotes some resources and effort into trying to fix this relationship issue because the current system is both miserable and aggravating for the surface ship player. I'm open to giving players manual control of anti-aircraft guns with DPS being ship dependent, where a player can aim and shoot down planes given enough AA DPS over time. The current implementation does this game a disservice. 

Edited by piecesofpizza
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It still feels like we're testing it for them. I play the game a lot and even so - it is honestly hard to keep track of all the nuances as this is repeatedly tweaked. I can imagine how hellish the rework must have been for a casual player. Your suggestions are interesting; but I don't know how they'll fix the very first issue. The CV rework has completely changed the mechanics. This is fun for some (ships do blob up! they do IRL!), others hate it, and others feel mixed. I hear that the game has jumped the shark / nuked the fridge after this rework (for bittervets at least).

 

If they significantly change the AA to be more complex - then they may be going against their own design choices (it removes accessibility and makes things more complicated). Your ideas aren't bad. The original post highlights some of the current significant issues in a polite way.


If I could add a #4 it is in regards to some carriers' survivability. The instant summoned fighter, the long repair, and the extremely tough armored hulls of higher tier CVs:

1. Make it very difficult to overcome one that runs to the corner of a map with a point advantage

2. Creates unrealistic situations where carriers can survive heavy AP shells

3. Creates unrealistic situations where CVs rarely burn up, flood, or detonate. (as many did in real life)

4. Creates unrealistic situations where the CVs are very tough for planes to deal with (see the Battle of Midway)

 

If the CV is abandoned, it should be easy to kill - not a tank with instant summoned fighters.

Edited by ComradeKino
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4 hours ago, Edgecase said:

---

Major issue #1: Punishing isolation = Punishing positioning
Power against ships in spaced positions is antithetical to the rest of the power projection mechanics in the game

  Reveal hidden contents

One fundamental ingredient of both pre- and post-rework CVs is that they are extremely punishing to ships that travel alone. Putting aside differences in how and how much this is the case, I would like to point out that punishing "being alone" is showstoppingly problematic. In randoms, this certainly makes players feel bad, especially stealth-focused destroyers who can no longer effectively flank the enemy team for big torpedo damage. But I believe the damage to competitive settings will be far more extensive, potentially lethal to some formats.

To understand why, recall that one of the most critical skill-based elements in the game is positioning. In World of Warships, this primarily consists of ensuring that ships on a team have different angles of attack on a target. Such arrangements of ships allow penetrating AP hits, eliminate a ship's ability to "go dark", and allow island cover to be overcome. Map positioning is one of the key currencies of the tactical realm, as vital as HP, ships, and capture points.

In order to achieve desirable positioning, ships must spread out. For obvious reasons of geometry, individual ships get farther apart as the number of ships on a team decreases. Thus, in a 7v7 Clan Battles format, ships must often be separated by 5-10km or more in order to take key tactical positions.

Herein lies the problem. A current cornerstone of CV design in this game is that CVs punish ships that are alone (due to a lack of AA stacking). The conflict should be clear: the CV design tenet of "punish being alone" is in direct conflict with the entire rest of the game's positioning dynamic of "spread out for good firing positions". As a player, this a painfully conflicted design. The team either needs to spread out and present ideal targets for air strikes, or ball up and set itself up to be the victim of crossfire. This muddled set of priorities leads to similarly muddled gameplay.

The reality, of course, is that smart teams will do something in between the two extremes. In the King of the Sea 8 event, our clan's battle doctrine called for functional groups of 3 ships that would always travel together. This allowed us to have three functional battlegroups on the map, providing an adequate amount of map coverage while not leaving any single ship vulnerable to repeated air strikes. HOWEVER, keep in mind that KotS allows a 9v9 format -- 33% more non-CV ships on the map (8) than Clan Battles (6). Trying to do the same thing in 7v7 would have left us with only two functional groups, or reduced the size of each group to 2 ships (which is not actually enough to deter a CV strike). Furthermore, these groups almost always needed to include a Worcester or Minotaur, in order to provide a serious deterrent against skilled CV players. In the end, the fact that CVs punish isolated ships forces ships to travel in groups, and greatly favor heavy AA ships (so that groups can be created with fewer ships) -- these amount to a major penalty to freedom of movement, positioning, and team comp diversity.

In short, the apparent design objective that CVs should be strong against isolated ships is in direct conflict with the game's core positioning mechanics, especially in cases of small teams. This is a recipe for CVs to have a toxic effect on Clan Battles, should they be introduced.

---

Major issue #2: AI-controlled AA is not counterplay
Computer-controlled AA fails to provide either skill-based interaction or a sense of agency

  Reveal hidden contents

Interesting gameplay interactions come about because of opportunities for players to make decisions that affect the encounter's outcome. Players' ability to make these decisions in response to other players' decisions ("counterplay") are important, for both objective (game-deciding) and subjective (players feel they have control) reasons. Such back-and-forth has the further effect of making these player versus player interactions skill-based in their outcome.

The current system of computer-controlled AA has virtually none of these qualities. While a small number of ships (mostly destroyers) can use concealment mechanics to counterplay (non-divebomber) CV strikes, cruisers and battleships rely on AI-controlled AA as their primary form of "counter" to planes. I say "counter" and not "counterplay" here because honestly there is basically no gameplay involved in the current AA system. There is nothing the player can do to influence the flakbursts or guaranteed AA damage output of their ship, other than toggle an abstract "priority sector" setting, and in most cases, doing so does more harm than good. This is because most plane attacks involve overflying the target, and thus the defending ship needs to get its priority sector to "flip" to the far side at exactly the moment the planes fly overhead, effectively pre-guessing the timing up to 12 seconds in advance. And if they do it just right, the reward is a 25% increase in damage ticks. However, as things currently stand at T10, it's almost impossible to kill incoming planes with a single ship's damage ticks alone; nearly all plane kills occur while exiting the target zone, so increased incoming dps doesn't actually accomplish much, and if you botch the flip, you don't even get the full exit damage.

This essentially noninteractive setup fails on three major points:

  1. It is boring -- there is a missed opportunity for gameplay in general here [lack of interaction]
  2. It allows no impact of skill on the defender's part because there's so little to actually do [lack of skill impact]
  3. It prevents the defender from feeling they had any active part in the interaction [lack of subjective agency]

Essentially, the AA system we have today is not a gameplay system at all, it is a lack of gameplay.

---

Major issue #3: Flak bursts are a basic skillcheck with no further purpose
Flak obliterates novices but does nothing to skilled players; bad feedback mechanisms make it very hard to learn how to deal with flak

  Reveal hidden contents

One of the stated purposes of the CV rework was to reduce the gap between high- and low-skill carrier players. However, the current dynamics of the flakburst system have exactly the opposite effect. Experienced players avoid flak so effectively that it may as well not exist for them. Flak thus only affects inexperienced players. Unfortunately for them, it is also one of the most punishing elements of the AA system, capable of destroying entire squadrons in an instant.

Further, learning how to deal with flak is difficult, as the game provides very poor indications as to how players should do so. The most effective technique is proactive course changes, but most players attempt to dodge reactively (which ceases to be effective around T8). No visual tells, timers, reminders, or other in-game methods are used to indicate to players that they were shot down because they failed to initiate a course change 2-3 seconds prior. Further techniques for mitigating flak damage are also extremely opaque: TBs are immune to flak during the run but the airburst animations continue; throttle juking is effective during a rocket strike, but feedback is several seconds delayed; the animation at the start of a level or dive bomber attack run can be used to "jump over" a line of flak. None of these are in any way obvious or intuitive. Even the sound effect is the same for plane damage taken due to unavoidable "tick" damage and plane damage taken from flak. In short, all the normal feedback mechanisms for learning to play better with respect to flak are poor, broken, or outright misleading.

The net effect is simple: flak bursts create binary skill check for CV play and nothing more. If you're good, you don't die to them, and they do nothing -- they become a dead mechanic. If not, you get wiped out without dropping a single bomb or torpedo. And the game provides no help getting from one state to the other. What does this add to the game for anyone except frustration and confusion? This is also a major waste of a mechanic that could potentially be redesigned to fix some of the other problems above.

 

 

Agree #1 is a huge problem.

I believe iChase made a video about #2 but I suspect this would cause another skill gap problem.

I think I've been complaining about #3 from the beginning. Yes FLAK is pretty and a neat idea but from a balance standpoint it is completely awful.

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well thought out and well argued post, thanks for this. AA has always been, at the heart of all problems between CV players and surface ships, problems which the rework does not address in a fundamental way, the problem as the OP explains, of a lack of active human driven counterplay to airpower. in some ways, AA is worse now than pre rework in this respect. Efforts have been made to overcome the problem of too much vision control, and the survivability of lone ships (notably dds), but only clumsy and unintuitive ways (the dd AA ambush is a prime, and silly, example, of the wild swings in gameplay development that struggle to address glaring issues, only to create new problems)/

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#1.  I dont agree here. Whether we like it or not, the game is meant to be played as team vs team. I do understand that it's hard to get people to realize they should be attempting to do things as a team is insanely difficult but there are two classes that push for teamwork, Destroyers and CVs. The idea of being a lone wolf against a team of 12 while 11 other people play NPCs is something you should see in a campaign mode of a console game.

#2. I think the player base has expressed its disdain for anything complex in the game, they like it basic. WG has stated that CVs, as an example, were to complicated to control along with individual sqaudrons so they took away manually controlled consumables and implemented a heavy reliance on automation. Consider the lack of complexity in using radar or hydro, WASD hacks for avoiding torpedoes, bow on angles for bouncing rounds, and disengaging through the use of concealment. Those are all incredibly simple interactions. While yes, some are more complex than others, overall the "counters" are simple. Being shot at? Turn bow in or stop shooting and turn invisible. Those are examples of just how limited all counters already are.

#3. Not all flak is 100% avoidable to most and its reflected in the immense amount of damage it does.

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I think you do a really good job of teasing out the fundamental flaws of the current CV's, and perhaps even the flaws in the entire strategic level of the game as it interacts with positioning. Let's hope someone who can turn those into solid ideas sees them.
I've said it in the past and I'll say it again, full manual AA control is not workable with current surface ship mechanics. Perhaps a mix of automatic and manual could work, but for ships like especially the Aki-Haru line taking *any* time out of their surface interaction to manage AA starts decreasing their surface impact. (Now, for those ships in their *current* balance state that might be a good thing but that's a different issue).

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Great post.

Minor issue with people saying you are PvE with respect to that CV attacking you...your AA is PvE, your rudder and throttle are NOT PvE.

Other than that, fully agree that AA needs more work.

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6 hours ago, Edgecase said:

Dear WG developers,

Please consider this an open letter regarding what I consider to be three deep-rooted and critical flaws of the CV rework.

While not directly relevant to the argument I am presenting, I will volunteer that I consider myself to be a moderately proficient CV player, but highly familiar with the mechanics. Also, while I make no claims to being a master strategist, I have spent considerable time in competitive gameplay environments, including ones with rework CVs. I have also played hundreds of normal games post-rework in all ship classes. Thus, I am not speaking from a lack of experience or perspective.

Finally, you may notice underlying these three complaints do not center around the CVs themselves. They are all rooted in the current dynamics of the AA system. This is, I believe, an accurate assessment of where the fault lies.

---

Major issue #1: Punishing isolation = Punishing positioning
Power against ships in spaced positions is antithetical to the rest of the power projection mechanics in the game

  Reveal hidden contents

One fundamental ingredient of both pre- and post-rework CVs is that they are extremely punishing to ships that travel alone. Putting aside differences in how and how much this is the case, I would like to point out that punishing "being alone" is showstoppingly problematic. In randoms, this certainly makes players feel bad, especially stealth-focused destroyers who can no longer effectively flank the enemy team for big torpedo damage. But I believe the damage to competitive settings will be far more extensive, potentially lethal to some formats.

To understand why, recall that one of the most critical skill-based elements in the game is positioning. In World of Warships, this primarily consists of ensuring that ships on a team have different angles of attack on a target. Such arrangements of ships allow penetrating AP hits, eliminate a ship's ability to "go dark", and allow island cover to be overcome. Map positioning is one of the key currencies of the tactical realm, as vital as HP, ships, and capture points.

In order to achieve desirable positioning, ships must spread out. For obvious reasons of geometry, individual ships get farther apart as the number of ships on a team decreases. Thus, in a 7v7 Clan Battles format, ships must often be separated by 5-10km or more in order to take key tactical positions.

Herein lies the problem. A current cornerstone of CV design in this game is that CVs punish ships that are alone (due to a lack of AA stacking). The conflict should be clear: the CV design tenet of "punish being alone" is in direct conflict with the entire rest of the game's positioning dynamic of "spread out for good firing positions". As a player, this a painfully conflicted design. The team either needs to spread out and present ideal targets for air strikes, or ball up and set itself up to be the victim of crossfire. This muddled set of priorities leads to similarly muddled gameplay.

The reality, of course, is that smart teams will do something in between the two extremes. In the King of the Sea 8 event, our clan's battle doctrine called for functional groups of 3 ships that would always travel together. This allowed us to have three functional battlegroups on the map, providing an adequate amount of map coverage while not leaving any single ship vulnerable to repeated air strikes. HOWEVER, keep in mind that KotS allows a 9v9 format -- 33% more non-CV ships on the map (8) than Clan Battles (6). Trying to do the same thing in 7v7 would have left us with only two functional groups, or reduced the size of each group to 2 ships (which is not actually enough to deter a CV strike). Furthermore, these groups almost always needed to include a Worcester or Minotaur, in order to provide a serious deterrent against skilled CV players. In the end, the fact that CVs punish isolated ships forces ships to travel in groups, and greatly favor heavy AA ships (so that groups can be created with fewer ships) -- these amount to a major penalty to freedom of movement, positioning, and team comp diversity.

In short, the apparent design objective that CVs should be strong against isolated ships is in direct conflict with the game's core positioning mechanics, especially in cases of small teams. This is a recipe for CVs to have a toxic effect on Clan Battles, should they be introduced.

---

Major issue #2: AI-controlled AA is not counterplay
Computer-controlled AA fails to provide either skill-based interaction or a sense of agency

  Reveal hidden contents

Interesting gameplay interactions come about because of opportunities for players to make decisions that affect the encounter's outcome. Players' ability to make these decisions in response to other players' decisions ("counterplay") are important, for both objective (game-deciding) and subjective (players feel they have control) reasons. Such back-and-forth has the further effect of making these player versus player interactions skill-based in their outcome.

The current system of computer-controlled AA has virtually none of these qualities. While a small number of ships (mostly destroyers) can use concealment mechanics to counterplay (non-divebomber) CV strikes, cruisers and battleships rely on AI-controlled AA as their primary form of "counter" to planes. I say "counter" and not "counterplay" here because honestly there is basically no gameplay involved in the current AA system. There is nothing the player can do to influence the flakbursts or guaranteed AA damage output of their ship, other than toggle an abstract "priority sector" setting, and in most cases, doing so does more harm than good. This is because most plane attacks involve overflying the target, and thus the defending ship needs to get its priority sector to "flip" to the far side at exactly the moment the planes fly overhead, effectively pre-guessing the timing up to 12 seconds in advance. And if they do it just right, the reward is a 25% increase in damage ticks. However, as things currently stand at T10, it's almost impossible to kill incoming planes with a single ship's damage ticks alone; nearly all plane kills occur while exiting the target zone, so increased incoming dps doesn't actually accomplish much, and if you botch the flip, you don't even get the full exit damage.

This essentially noninteractive setup fails on three major points:

  1. It is boring -- there is a missed opportunity for gameplay in general here [lack of interaction]
  2. It allows no impact of skill on the defender's part because there's so little to actually do [lack of skill impact]
  3. It prevents the defender from feeling they had any active part in the interaction [lack of subjective agency]

Essentially, the AA system we have today is not a gameplay system at all, it is a lack of gameplay.

---

Major issue #3: Flak bursts are a basic skillcheck with no further purpose
Flak obliterates novices but does nothing to skilled players; bad feedback mechanisms make it very hard to learn how to deal with flak

  Reveal hidden contents

One of the stated purposes of the CV rework was to reduce the gap between high- and low-skill carrier players. However, the current dynamics of the flakburst system have exactly the opposite effect. Experienced players avoid flak so effectively that it may as well not exist for them. Flak thus only affects inexperienced players. Unfortunately for them, it is also one of the most punishing elements of the AA system, capable of destroying entire squadrons in an instant.

Further, learning how to deal with flak is difficult, as the game provides very poor indications as to how players should do so. The most effective technique is proactive course changes, but most players attempt to dodge reactively (which ceases to be effective around T8). No visual tells, timers, reminders, or other in-game methods are used to indicate to players that they were shot down because they failed to initiate a course change 2-3 seconds prior. Further techniques for mitigating flak damage are also extremely opaque: TBs are immune to flak during the run but the airburst animations continue; throttle juking is effective during a rocket strike, but feedback is several seconds delayed; the animation at the start of a level or dive bomber attack run can be used to "jump over" a line of flak. None of these are in any way obvious or intuitive. Even the sound effect is the same for plane damage taken due to unavoidable "tick" damage and plane damage taken from flak. In short, all the normal feedback mechanisms for learning to play better with respect to flak are poor, broken, or outright misleading.

The net effect is simple: flak bursts create binary skill check for CV play and nothing more. If you're good, you don't die to them, and they do nothing -- they become a dead mechanic. If not, you get wiped out without dropping a single bomb or torpedo. And the game provides no help getting from one state to the other. What does this add to the game for anyone except frustration and confusion? This is also a major waste of a mechanic that could potentially be redesigned to fix some of the other problems above.

---

You may notice that some of the common CV complaints did not make this list. That is because I believe many of them are only issues in the first place because of the above three. For instance, "Infinite planes": If every interaction between a surface ships and an aircraft squadron felt good and provided opportunities for rewarding counterplay, it wouldn't be an issue how often they happened (or at least not nearly as much). Similarly, 2CV or even 3CV battles would not be an issue if CVs added opportunities for fun, rather than a void of non-gameplay.

---

Final thoughts: Since I'm always loathe to leave without a suggestion, I'll propose something radical here. The game needs an AA Rework. The problems above could be solved by giving every (large) ship in the game similar AA potential, but allowing ships to vary in the way they manifest their AA -- let players toggle (with the ~ key) different flak patterns and timings. Give some ships with historically weak AA hard-to-use, but not ineffective AA options. Then get rid of AA stacking. Entirely. This way, every ship in the game has a chance to defend itself, and CVs don't choke off mobility and positioning. I'm sure this is not a usable idea as written, but bizarre as it is, I'm not sure it would be worse than what we already have today.

Sincerely,
[-K-] Edgecase - NA

 

TL;DR: AA needs to be reworked so ships aren't punished for taking good firing positions, so that there's actual player-in-the-loop controls, and a redesign of flakbursts seems like a good place to start.

OP.  All of what you said is well thought out but, you've missed the "root cause" of any change:  carriers are strategic weapons....  No matter how you cut this this cake, carriers will always be the odd sized piece....  The game was attempting to speed up TTK so that it could achieve higher revenue streams....  Massive amounts of plane did just that in 8.0.......WG was ecstatic and the game population was about to walk out...  Carrier are strategic weapons: no matter how you cut it they:  can control spotting across the entire map and do no have to expose the carrier; they can, without anyone else, project a large amount of firepower anywhere they want at anytime; and, they self heal to the point that they add aircraft they never would have had in reality......  I know, this isn't a SIM........but, ask yourself: can a DD self heal?  Can a DD avoid being spotted and still accomplish any mission?

Planes are the CV's weapons and yet, planes can't fight planes?  the entire point of a CV is to protect via a CAP surface action groups....  One carrier sends torpedo planes and the protecting CV sends fighters.... 

Maps are too small for carriers.  A plane fly's 250+ MPH and a ship maybe, 25-35 mph.........guess who can't escape.  A planes power projection is well over 150+ miles and a ships, at most 30.....  Did the Bismark wins its fight against a bi-plane?  Ask the British if the Prince of Wales and her escort could have survived the air attack that killed them?  Did the Yamato have a chance without a CV to protect it??  NO, no and no.....  CV's are not tactical weapons and trying to mix them into a small map tactical shooter is silly..........  There is no compromise in the world that will work for either the CV's or the ships..........and, to make matters even worse, a good CV Captain can win a game in the first 5 minutes of play:  why?  Because a good CV Captain can cause an entire team "to react to what he wants them to do !"  No other ship in the game can and has the capabilities to do that.........none.   Balance?  How.......if one good player can actually do that???  And, they have (watch the video's that are available out there since 8.0).........   There is a song that goes:  "never gonna happen, never gonna happen...."  Sorry.......  Wait, subs are even worse !

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6 hours ago, Indiox said:

I have red many complains about CVs and many poorly though ideas. I got to say you can go take them all back to school with this. I have though long too about how to improve the interaction but could never come up with something manual that fitted with the arcade style of wows. I have to say you got my up vote and i hope wg takes your feedback on all points on this. Is pretty late but your post gave me tons of ideas i will have a better response tomorrow :Smile_honoring:

There are a couple problems with a "real" manual AA system.

1. Other than just clicking once on a squadron is that nobody wants to have to take their attention completely away from surface warfare to engage planes.  Like switching to an AA cannon view.

2.  If they did implement something like this, the planes mechanics and graphics would need to change.  They move so fast and secondly, its difficult to actually see planes before they are right on top of you, even zoomed in.  Yeah you can see the icon.

 

I simply don't know what good alternative there is.  However, I am pretty sure most people would be fairly averse to having to switch over to AA view and manually shoot at planes.

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As per WG's head balance dev.  "Nope."

 

They are dismissive and think you are too stupid for anything other than the current iteration of AA.

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good stuff but what will end up with is how much money wg has to put into the cv rework no.2 and how much money will it bring back. if they are satisfied with now curret state of the game now, they won't do anything.

Edited by ihsasum

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Edge, thanks for taking the time to write this up.  I'm not sure I agree with all of what you've said.  Point one I agree with you completely.  I agree with point two as well, however, I don't see how manual AA would work well without being too much to handle while being engaged by other surface ships.  I also agree that the flak mechanic is not working well for either side.

Adjusting AA, or giving players manual control is very unlikely to solve these issues.  The fundamental problem is that AA must be weaker than the CV player's attack or CVs aren't viable.  CVs have lower alpha now so they have to be able to repeatedly strike ships.  That could be changed to allow CVs to have a strong alpha strike and reduce the number of strikes they get in a match, but we already know that doesn't work.  I'm not sure how this AA problem gets solved, I don't think it can be solved.

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      Now to discuss your final though. A manual meaningful solution is and has always been the key issue of the problems with cv/surface ship interaction. For all of you that doubt this is the case i ask you watch Navyfield there CVs were not in fact loathed as they are here because of manual AA Now another key point here is that the solution cannot be a simple consumable like DF or something complex like true manual AA. Now for some ideas i had base on this thread and taking into account all the points and changes highlighted by edgecase:

     1) i actually really like the idea edgecase had in there. What if you could control the setting for your flack timing and shape. Now you may be thinking here, theres no way to implement this in consumable form that its easy to use right ?. The truth is that it could be done if the changes to it are done in port. You set kinda like your own DDR routine of timing and shape for your flack in port and then to activate it you will have a simple consumable in game. This could be a way to implement edgecase idea without overwhelming players mid fight or taking time away from surface interaction.

    2) The second idea i had is a consumable that would for 1 flack barrage double the reload speed for the next. It could be change to be for 2 or more but the main thing about this is that it would mess with the attack plan of the cv without it being too impossible by having it last more than 1 or 2 flack barrages. Timing the use well will force the cv into a worst attack lineup or a mouth full of flack, while timing it at the wrong time would for the most part be of little use.

   This are some of the ideas i had based on edgecase ideas, feel free to offer any feedback or ideas of your own. Maybe we might actually find something that works at some point.

 

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1. Disagreed. Isolation is bad for this game, its not a 'sniper' game and people should not be isolated, people how play isolate just like sit confortable sniping and letting the team die, specially when they are in battleships.

2. Agreed, the AI-AA is kinda bad, but if they put "manual" AA they need put strong planes, its alread bad fight vs the AI AA, can be worse fight vs a good player. You cant delete sheels in the air why you should delete planes? Unless they can hit you pretty bad.

3. Disagreed, the flak can look useless for surface players but is annoying as hell for cv players, the time and moviment you need make to avoid flak you lose your aiming too, the perfect 6 torps salvo become a 2 torps with luck.

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I agree that full manual control of AA would be entertaining in an adrenaline junky sort of way, but overwhelming from a multitasking perspective (and to be perfectly honest, I think the sheer amount of camera movement would break the UI). Thankfully, player-in-the-loop control of AA does not necessarily mean personally delivering your artisanal handcrafted dakka each time. It could be a button that cycles between center-heavy AA patterns (directly in front of the plane) and sides-heavy AA patterns (to the sides, to interfere with turning). It could be a button that fires an extra flakburst on demand (with a few seconds cooldown) as @Indiox suggested. It could mean changing the "pick a side" priority AA mechanic to "pick a ring" to reinforce (with a much shorter transition time). There are a lot of possibilities; I believe WG has underexplored this space, given its importance and the potential for low-hanging fruit to produce a high payoff.

 

43 minutes ago, HyenaHiena said:

3. Disagreed, the flak can look useless for surface players but is annoying as hell for cv players, the time and moviment you need make to avoid flak you lose your aiming too, the perfect 6 torps salvo become a 2 torps with luck.

No offense, but this is actually a perfect example of the game providing poor feedback. Torpedo bombers are literally immune to flakbursts once they are at attack altitude (i.e. after you click and they start flying lower). The planes simply fly under them. So there is zero reason to try to avoid them -- you can just fly straight and drop your 6 torpedoes with the narrow cone, where you want them. But the fact that torpedo bombers get this immunity is counterintuitive, and WG's current design provides no indication that things work this way.

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Good post, +1.  I dont think WG would give us any kind of actual control over AA. WG wants to make the game easier/simpler. A large postion of the player base cant multitask. 

 

AA is only going to be balanced if completely controled by players, with players actually aiming and shooting, and the skill defining who is going to win the "duel". But then again, you are making the game harder. But while AA is AI vs Player, its never going to be balanced, if AA is too strong to compensate the lack of skill factor, CVs become too weak, if AA is not strong enough, CVs become too strong. 

 

WG cornered themselves in a bad place, with no easy way out. The options are making the game harder but fair or making the game easier but unfair. This is why many of us pointed out that CVs cannot be balanced. 

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    I agree with you @Edgecase that the key here is with doing something with the flack bursts, though i dont think anything too complex like ring sector reinforcement could be implemented for many reasons. DDs for example and cruisers dont usually have too much time to play with any panel while spotted when they have to watch the 10 ships that are gonna target them or the salvos from the 5 BBs usually in game.

    Good players can multitask better so i think some kind of flack on command button that a player of any skill can exploit (from gearing pew pew to Yamato deletion levels), or a general setting for flack that said had 4 shapes and 4 timings that you could change in port will probably have the best chance of being easy to implement and actually usable.

   Hope this gets raised to the developers because i do very much wish this gets improved for the future enjoyments of clan wars since we know cvs are going to end up there now.

Edited by Indiox
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OP.  I have a question:  What is the "value" you, as a CV Captain want out of the game?  What is that "oh yeah" that keeps you playing carriers?  i.e. for me, as a DD driver, it is the "ah hA!  Gotcha!  Torpedoes los......!  KA-BOOM"....  Using stealth to get "danger close" and then, executing that decisive attack.......(and, hopefully surviving the escape...) 

At Update 8.0, from what I have seen, it was omnipotence: complete control of the game.  After 8.0, what did we learn from "too much?"  Then, it became:  "too little" as AA organized a little bit....

Again, what is the "balance" the CV players want??   If I knew that, maybe, I could understand this situation better..........because, on the receiving end as a DD, all I see are endless rocket attacks that just don't seem to miss all that much and literally, in many DD's, no way to fight back and even if we do, the planes regenerate..........and, we don't? 

Here's how I see this:  carriers can't fit in the map sizes.........too small.  Carriers need to be able to defend their own team as a high value function because if the carrier defends well, the team has the ability to do well.....  They are inter-connected "value wise"..... If the carrier fails in CAP, the team fails most times because that is the historical inference....the conclusions we can make from history.  But, can we balance "earnings".....  It's the same argument about "spotting" for DD's.  They take all of the risks and the CA/BB's get all of the value..... 

If we can balance "value", how becomes easier because "value" is what drives this game....  DD's have backed away from spotting because of radar and aircraft; and yet, spotting is the best tool to defeat the enemy and has little actual value for the DD CPT !  Right now, there is no balance there and the game has changed: to what, no one seems to know.....  Carriers need to "have a value" that is theirs..........and, it can't be the same as BB's !  And that, is the problem: carriers need a "lane" to operate within that compliments everyone else's lanes....  The "one ship class" to rule them all will fail (8.0).........  All classes must have like and similar values based on the expectations they were created for..........those "roles" define the value streams.....

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Great constructive post! +3 and great suggestion to actually do something with it.

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