In 1976, a line of television commercials launched that would not only put a lower-tier brand on the map, but would in turn revolutionize an entire industry.
The light beer industry.
At the time, “light beer” wasn’t the market staple we know now. But the Miller brewing company took a punt on a local light beer known as Meister Brau Lite, and in 1974 began marketing it regionally to the hypermasculine American sports fan demographic as “everything you’d want in a beer. Only less.” This allowed them to avoid the kiss of death: being thought of as a “diet beer.”
In 1975, Miller took the brand national, and the year following the iconic “Tastes Great. Less Filling” ad campaign was launched. This series of ads would become a cultural touchstone for almost two decades, and would pit a group of men- often athletes or celebrities like Bob Uecker and Rodney Dangerfield- against one another. One group would proclaim the glories of drinking Miller Lite because it tasted great. The other would take issue, decreeing the virtue of the beer was that it was “less filling”- code for being able to consume even more of it than usual. It was so successful that it established Lite Beer (later rechristened Miller Lite) as a viable contender in the marketplace, and “light beer” as a new product segment for a number of brewers.
In many ways, this has been somewhat reminiscent of my War Robots experience as of late. For most of my playing career, longtime readers will know I’ve been single-platform. And as long as I stuck to one platform, my research has been fairly uncontroversial. iOS players would either recognize that my experience mirrored theirs, or would note differences in a sort of “your mileage may vary” approach. Android users, often feeling that iOS and Android were two very different experiences, would simply chalk up any discrepancies to the difference in platform. “That’s what he’s seeing in Diamond because he’s iOS Diamond.”
For the most part, this has remained something of a “Tastes Great!” versus “Less Filling!” argument: impassioned advocates saying that Android is harder than iOS. Others saying that there’s no difference. And most of the world just carrying on as usual.
If only there was a way to quantify it ?
Turns out, there sort of is. It’s not perfect, but what if we looked at sample data from both platforms side by side? Unfortunately, when the League system was implemented I went straight to Diamond, and I’m an entire tier away from that right now on Android, so I can’t compare apples to apples. But we can still make some inferences based on the data, particularly given that the most common contention favors Android as the more challenging grind.
In terms of progress, I’ve captured data from iOS Diamond 2, where I now (somewhat tentatively) ply my trade. On the Android account, I’ve cruised through Silver 3 and- after a few potholes- made good time through Silver 2. I’ll be including all of that data here. Here’s a look at the hangar at time of writing.
There are, of course, some obvious issues with comparative data here. First, given the passage of time, even if I made it to Android Diamond 3 in a fortnight, there would still be a considerable gap from when I was last in Diamond 3 in iOS. Second, gathering League-based data has only really made sense after- surprise- the implementation of Leagues. And in previous data-collection articles, I looked less at League-based collection and more just a periodic dipping of the stick in the oil.
But as we continue with future By the Numbers entries, we’ll be looking more and more closely at the comparison between the two platforms. If Tastes Great in Gold 3 looks comparable to Less Filling in Diamond 1, then we’ll have some measure of which of the two is more challenging than the other.
But for now, let’s get into Android Silver. I’ve managed to work my way into all three levels, and have the data.
Average Player Level (Silver 3): 19.18 (+0.24)
Average Player Level (Silver 2): 21.89 (+2.71)
Average Player Level (Silver 1): 29.26 (+7.37)
We’re in the big time now! The jump we see in player experience in Silver 1 makes the previous leagues look like preludes. To be sure, the level cap for War Robots is fairly low compared to some other games, so you can’t read too much into the fact that Android Silver 1 and iOS Diamond are close in terms of maxed out players, but when compared to the previous leagues of Android Silver it’s quite a stark difference.
Median Victories (Silver 3): 211.50 (+130.0)
Median Victories (Silver 2): 632.0 (+420.5)
Median Victories (Silver 1): 649.0 (+17.0)
Just like the levels sort of topped out, it looks like player experience sort of plateaus between Silver 2 and Silver 1. Basically, that’s where the rough-and-tumble of the early Leagues starts to give way to regular progression, so this shouldn’t be all that surprising. What it means- in effect- is that Silver 2 and Silver 1 are not unlike the shallower and deeper ends of the same pool. Some players are better swimmers, but they’ve all been swimming for about the same amount of time.
Average Trophies (Silver 3): 238.63 (+161.13)
Average Trophies (Silver 2): 363.76 (+420.5)
Average Trophies (Silver 1): 199.72 (-164.04)
I’m at a loss to explain the drop-off here, unless either there’s some form of reset mechanism that starts everyone back at square one in effect, or Silver 1 is a sort of massive purgatory where upward mobility through regular activity starts to wane. The latter is certainly possible. Given how much warning I’ve had from Android members of the community about the long grind in upper-tier Silver, it’s not hard to imagine that some users are not playing at a hell-bent-for-leather pace.
Not only that, but it’s also a possible factor that some players did a lot of grinding during the Anniversary Event, and have cooled off a bit. If you’ve got a theory, I’d love to hear it in the comments.
Here are the distributions of player leagues that I’m encountering.
Silver 3 here was particularly interesting. The matchmaker had little problem finding me very narrow-spectrum matches. Almost everyone I played with and against was on the same plane as me, with a few pull-ins from one league lower. That’s as close to an ideal pull as we’ve seen to date, and one that doesn’t appear to have been sustainable.
Silver 2 had to pull one-fifth of my co-players in from Silver 1. And Silver 1 got half of its players from Silver 2. The last time we saw the matchmaker pull a non-majority amount of players from the equivalent league was in Bronze 3 and Private 1. If we’re imagining a Silver Purgatory, with tons of players just sort of listing in the doldrums, this seems inconsistent. Why did we need to get so many Silver 2 people in to make Silver 1 matches fire?
This is also curious when compared to the Silver 3 and Silver 2 experience. Those leagues had no problem filling themselves out with “indigenous” players the way Silver 1 did. It will be interesting to see what the lay of the land looks like at Gold 3.
Average Hangar Slots (Silver 3): 3.38 (+0.13)
Average Hangar Slots (Silver 2): 3.94 (+0.56)
Average Hangar Slots (Silver 1): 4.03 (+0.09)
The only surprise here is how big of a jump we see between Silver 3 and Silver 2. For those of a more casual mindset when it comes to approaching data, values less than 1.00 can often seem inconsequential- or values less than [arbitrary large number]. But when you look at the values relative to one another, a jump of half a hangar slot in a single bound is nothing to sneeze at.
Once you get to Silver 1, on average everyone has at least four slots, and working for five. This isn’t true in actual fact- some stalwarts still rock the Lonely Trio- but in general, it’s not in the least bit surprising to see a correlation between number of slots and in-game advancement. (Cue the Four-Slot Fringe Choir singing that toe-tapping hit “Correlation ain’t Causation”).
Average Robot Level (Silver 3): 5.97 (+1.21)
Average Robot Level (Silver 2): 7.36 (+1.39)
Average Robot Level (Silver 1): 7.65 (+0.29)
Progress is steady up to Silver 1, which then creeps up just a touch past Silver 2. This again points to a sort of Silver 2/1 Purgatory where there’s just not a lot of churn or differentiation. Maybe in the weapons?
Average Highest Weapon Level (Silver 3): 5.92 (+0.93)
Average Highest Weapon Level (Silver 2): 7.79 (+1.87)
Average Highest Weapon Level (Silver 1): 7.91 (+0.12)
Right around Silver 2 it appears that players turned a corner and started upgrading their weapons ahead of their bots. While the good old days of tiered systems and the “level your weapons 2 higher than your bots” conventional wisdom are well in the rearview, it seems more experienced players haven’t forgotten the value of higher-level weapons even on lower-level bots.
That’s not to say one should neglect the speed and health benefits of investing in the bots as well, but being able to throw additional damage can make up for a few shortcomings. Still, the difference is modest, so most folks seem to be leveling them more or less in tandem.
What bots are people running?
Finally, we round third with a look at the metagame. Here are the bots I saw in each of the three Silver leagues, along with the previous data for trending and comparison.
Based on what we’ve already seen in the more advanced iOS data collection I’ve taken, this metagame is shaping up as could be expected. It’s a bit like watching a time-lapse look at Pangaea forming the modern world. Carnage appears for the first time in Silver 3, while the Griffin spikes back up to nearly 30%. Bots like the Patton and Vityaz move steadily towards obsolescence. Cossacks and Destriers circle the drain. We know where this is going, and nothing we’re seeing now disagrees.
The Boa is particular is a sad tale. Once a mainstay at Bronze and Silver (tiers, not leagues), I’d thought the Boa would be more viable at lower levels in the new matchmaking/league system, but this just hasn’t been the case. It peaked at just over 7% in Private 1, then fell off a cliff in after Bronze 2 and never recovered.
Silver 2 sees Carnages really arrive on the scene, as well as Galahads. Golems slip a bit (expected), as do Natashas. The former are headed for obsolescence, the latter still have their part to play and will hold firm as we get into Silver 1.
Silver 1 just sort of sets the Jell-o mold we saw in Silver 2, with another fluctuation on the ubiquitous Griffins being the only significant movement in either direction.
Now here’s the same data, sorted by prevalence in Silver 1 for convenience.
So what to make of all this?
Silver Android is no joke. That “brick wall” that I was told was coming has arrived in the form of Silver 1, and slipping back to Silver 2 is a very real likelihood at the time of writing this. Much of this is because my hangar is underpowered in terms of bots and weapon levels. My average for both is 6.42, while now in Silver 1 I’m running into an average closer to 8.00.
This goes beyond simple ability to compete, and actually undermines the strategy I’ve successfully employed to get here. Before we conclude, I’d promised to delve into that a little bit, and so I shall.
The secret to my success in Silver 3 and 2 really isn’t much of a secret at all, but rather just a sense of priorities and adapting my tactics to the environment. The iOS Diamond environment is very different from the free-wheeling, tactics-light Android free-for-all. I quickly discovered that I’d need to adjust how I played in order to succeed as I did.
There were two changes I made to my usual gameplay, and I’ll discuss them both first before we jump into the data.
First, Ignore the Beacons
Wait, what? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not reversing my long-standing position that beacons are central to success in War Robots. But because I knew so many were tripping over themselves to get them (particularly during the event), I didn’t bother myself. If a random player and I were both headed for the beacon, I’d veer off immediately and let them have it rather than trying to co-earn a beacon cap. If someone was following me to a Red beacon, I’d pass through it (turning it white) and let them be the one to flip to blue. This deprioritized the Medal of Capture (and therefore Gold), but allowed me to avoid wasting precious time in a game where the short seconds often can and do make a difference.
Second, Damage is King
The other thing I came to be aware of in a way I simply never have before was just how vital damage was to progression. Because league points are tied to your standings at the end of each match, it was critical to get as high as you could. When winning, this could offer a nice boost up the ladder. When losing, it offered the opportunity for damage control, limiting the steps back.
This came into clear focus one evening when squadding with some of my iOS mates in Aurora Nova. We had a nearly full squad on voice comms, and were able to lock down four out of five beacons on Power Plant. All we needed to do was hold our position, and the game was ours. As the last bit of the enemy’s dominance bar slipped away, without thinking I just charged at the enemy snipers and threw as much damage at them as I could.
It had no impact on the battle, but later upon reflection I realized that that was the legacy of my immersive Android experience: bleed the bastards for every last point of damage they’re worth.
When we were up, this was typically a natural outcome of winning the match. But when the tide turned and it seemed like we were destined to lose, I’d often throw caution to the wind and go for damage. This short-timer focus manifested itself a number of different ways. For instance, going for the Leo instead of the Galahad because damage dealt to the Galahad’s physical shield doesn’t count in the standings. Or sending the Thundorkan Lancelot on a suicidal run into the heart of the enemy just to keep the damage meter spinning. No matter how bad we got routed, I played every second just as intensely, hunting for a few more points of damage.
The trick, of course, was to develop a fine eye for reading the battlefield. You didn’t want to get into “salvage mode” too early, because ultimately you wanted to win the match and get more league points. But wait too long, and those opportunities to pad the damage total became less opportune. And given the radical unpredictability of the flow of battle in Android Silver I’ve noted before, this was as much art as science.
But it worked. Here are a few of the games I posted recently, check out the margin of difference between first and second. It ain’t much, but those few extra points make a lot of difference.
Now, in Silver 1, my low-level hangar just doesn’t have the firepower or durability to maximize this strategy, and so I’m losing quite a bit more. So it looks like the matchmaker is sending me back to Silver 2 for a little more marinading, then I’ll have another crack at progressing through Silver 1.