A couple of weeks ago, then still a relatively new player as opposed to the grizzled veteran I am now, I signed up to be able to play on the test server.
I’d seen some grousing that most players only seemed interested in the test server so they could play with the stuff that had thus far eluded them, max-level Gold bots and weapons and the like, rather than provide any useful feedback about the stuff that necessitated a test server in the first place.
In a moment of civic-mindedness, I put in my application, remarking that I’d mainly want to test the Light bots, like the Jesse, since Lights were and have been my preference. I figured being a neophyte, I’d probably get passed over. After all, what perspectives could I really bring to the table based on such a short pool of experience? But instead, I was approved, and the next open window saw me eagerly signing up.
I suppose I’d imagined in my mind that the server would be the same thing as what I’m used to, just with tweaks and additional options that were being tested. I used my massive pile of Gold to buy five Jesses and equip them with different weapons arrays. And so my max level Jesse with its max level weapons took its first steps- onto Yamantau.
After spending a few minutes in my Light bots getting melted from enemies across the board I couldn’t even see, on a map I’d never been on, I ended the match, closed the test server app, and went back to the warm, welcoming embrace of Bronze-level play on my normal account. Yamantau nothing more than a distant, hellish memory.
This week, I found my way back.
It’s not always easy to recognize when you’ve moved up a tier. There’s no sign on the side of the road that says, “Prepare for Impact,” no explicit head’s up from the game. And even the early warning signs aren’t always clear. I was taking the post-game notations of my player pool for the next stats article when I noticed I’d been up against a player with a 6/6 Leo, a 7/7 Natasha, and an 8/6 Vityaz. Huh, I thought, setting my pen down for a moment, that’s a helluva rubber-band.
“Rubber-banding,” for those keeping score at home, is the term that describes the matchmaker’s occasional pulling in of people on the border of a higher or lower bracket if it can’t find enough people to fire a match, with the notion that a slightly imbalanced match is preferable to no match at all.
But conventional wisdom holds that if you’re seeing snow, you’re in Silver. I cast an accusing glance at my 4/5 Boa. Leveling up the Boa was the only change to my hangar I could recall making. Was it possible that going from level 3 to level 4 was the feather that tipped the scale? Was it a fluke? When I played my second match on Yamantau, I knew it wasn’t, and recalled the suspect Boa for a brand new one, leveling it to 3 and leaving it there.
My first thought was to yank the Boa entirely. Despite hearing good things about the configuration, I couldn’t really get into it. It was slow, even cumbersome. The Golem’s no Roadrunner either, but like a good soccer match there was a lot of build-up before you got to score by popping the “death button” that made it feel worth it. The Boa was hardy, and could dish out solid damage with a Thunder and Taran, but often getting it to useful range was a chore.
I decided in the end to leave my hangar how it was, at least until I’d gotten all the data I needed for the stats. Proper science controls its variables!
Here’s a look at the hangar as of the time of writing.
First, the statistical changes. I’ve won 64 more matches than the same time a week ago, which means I’ve played about 77 games- around 11 day. Thanks in part to the move to Low Silver, my rolling performance metrics have suffered a little. The kills per game has fallen a little over half a point, from 4.3 to 3.7. I’d like that to at least be at 4.00. As we saw in the most recent stats thread, the overwhelming number of players run with three Hangar slots.
A kill rate of 4.00 means that (in general) I’m wiping out one player’s full Hangar, and doing damage to a second’s (most players I find are still running only three). On a strictly attritional basis, if everyone on my team is killing more than they’re losing, well, that sounds like victory to me. I can’t control what my random teammates do, from the commonly-encountered “AFK guy” to the singularly unique Magnum Destrier pilot who found the very heighth of amusement in running around Springfield blasting the rest of us Blues– but I can control my own contribution.
My victories are down 2%, but I expect to lose a little bit more entering a new Tier. But it’s not all bad news- my average damage output is up 8%, which is almost certainly attributable to the adoption of the “Death Button” Golem. In my last Battle Stories update, I’d already fallen in love with the setup after just a dozen outings, and I’ve been just as happy with it ever since.
So let’s talk about the rest of the Hangar.
Zeus Schutze – if there’s one bot whose position on the bench is in jeopardy, it’s the “Electric Ostrich.” I knew going into the setup that there was a reported glitch where the Zeus would connect with an enemy unit, but not inflict any damage. I can confirm this is true. I’ve been close enough to see an opponent’s bot glow white-hot with the impact of the thing, and still fail to apply damage.
If this was only once in a great while, I’d say it’s the risk you run for a relatively maneuverable bot that has superb reach. But not only is it much more frequent (I’ve seen estimates as high as a 20% whiff rate, and I can’t outright deny that from experience), but it’s remarkably frustrating as well.
Recently on Springfield, I was teamed up with a group of players who had absolutely zero interest in beacons. The only thing stopping the enemy from a full run of Red was my furious capping from place to place. Instead, they were happy just to set up shop on the ledge overlooking the central gully. Four bots in and down to the Schutze, I hopped off the ledge and ran towards center beacon, hoping (incorrectly) that my stalwart teammates would give me some covering fire while I tried to stop the game from sliding into oblivion.
The beacon had a guard, a Patton, and it had already taken some hits. I danced around with it a bit, taking some extra fire from other nearby foes, and nearly had the Patton destroyed. And by “nearly,” I mean, “I got off a fatal shot, and it didn’t do any damage.” He heroically popped me, and I heroically refrained from punching the wall. I’m a middle-aged man with four children in my life, I don’t need that kind of aggravation.
Thunder Taran Boa – Look for this guy to get the gong, too. Someone mentioned in the Wiki Forum that Boas were an excellent choice for players, since they would be perfectly serviceable until lower Gold Tier. As mentioned above, it’s just not doing it for me. When I added the Golem, I couldn’t wait to play the Golem. I should feel the same way about any of the bots in my lineup, and that’s just not happening here. It’s not you, Boa, it’s me. Grade: C. Potential is there, but needs greater effort.
Taran Cossack – Still my opening bot, game in and game out. Sometimes I feel the call to throw off the chains of civilization, and join the baying mob racing for the center of the map as soon as the game begins, but given the general apathy towards capping I dare not give in. Beacon runners are like the healers in an MMO. They might not be the ones bringing down the big bad in the boss fight, but you can be damned sure they’re the ones keeping the team in a position to win. And much like dedicated MMO healers, the best ones tend to have about the same sanity level of a goalie in hockey. You have to be a little touched to love doing this job. Grade: A. Consistent performer with a high degree of excellence.
Pinata Gepard – Yep, I’ve brought sexy back. With my move up to High Bronze and now Low Silver, it was time to dust off the Gepard and retire the Magnum Destrier. This was all about guilt management, not wanting to be a MagGep clubber in Bronze Tier harvesting the poor lowbies for Gold. I don’t really know what level a MagGep will be a guilt-free option. They appear to be nonexistent in Gold Tier, so logically you’d think there’s a place where they’re good- but not overpowering. Grade: B. Above average, but room for improvement.
The Golem also gets an A, with the Schutze getting a C- for streaky performance.
It was my second Yamantau match after having somehow crossed over to Low Silver, and it felt like a whole new world. New terrain I wasn’t familiar with, new bots I’d not really faced before. I was looking for anything that felt familiar, so I started off with beacon capping in the Taran Cossack (as normal), before coming across a fellow Cossack pilot in TheDanishCowboy.
Aha, I exulted, a Cossack dogfight, now that’s familiar!
I didn’t have to find my opponent, they were closing in on our spawn area fairly aggressively, hopping along the ground to stay in cover. I hopped down and immediately began emptying my Taran into them. They’d taken some damage already, so I figured it for a fairly easy fight. One of my teammates hit them with something, further taking their life down, and I was annoyed that I wouldn’t get the chance for a relatively “clean” kill. Turns out, that wasn’t what I needed to be worrying about.
This pilot outhopped, outmaneuvered, and outshot me with a Taran of their own. We jumped back and forth. We criss-crossed. We even ran side-by-side blasting away at one point. They were clearly much more familiar with the slippery terrain, but the victory ultimately was theirs on merit. I was skied- and then a moment later so were they (from a teammate).
What made the pilot all the more impressive was I saw them again a few moments later- in another Cossack! I had a look at the end of the game, and their entire hangar- a full five slots- was all Cossacks. To you, sir or madam, I salute you!