The origin of Gepard Diary’s latest initiative has a most unusual source: my two-year-old daughter, Ruari.
Like most two-year-olds, she’s mischievous and precocious, with an uncanny ability to get her hands on things you’d much rather she didn’t. This can (and has) included everything from my work ID badge to guinea pigs, car keys to remote controls, foodstuffs to clean towels (which don’t stay clean for long).
Usually the damage is modest. A bag of sugar dumped on the floor. A bewildered guinea pig relocated a few rooms away chirping for rescue. A blood-pressure-raising search for car keys before the morning commute to work. But every now and then, maybe it isn’t so modest.
A week or so ago, I awoke from a nap to find my wife in a state of grave quiet.
“Hey,” I nudged her, “everything okay?”
“Ruari got ahold of your phone while you were sleeping.” This wasn’t entirely uncommon, Ruari loves getting ahold of our phones. My wife even stores some games on hers for the kids.
“She deleted War Robots off your phone. I reinstalled it, but…”
But the account was gone. A few days’ prior, I’d logged out of Game Center in an attempt to get another game’s beta client installed, and forgotten to log back in. Everything I’d worked for was gone, replaced by a single Destrier.
I turned off the game and put the phone down, exhaling. “Ahh,” I said to my wife, “no big deal. I’ve never seen Pixonic fail to restore a lost account, so I’ll just reach out to them.” I made sure to sound extra-confident, so my wife wouldn’t feel badly. I mean, what I said was true, inasmuch that occasionally on the Wiki Forum we find someone in a similar predicament, but this was just a small number of times. Could I really lose my account? What would I do if Pixonic came back and told me they couldn’t restore it?
“Well, that’s obvious,” came the first thought, “I’d see if they could provide me with some replacement gear to my new account and start again.” This might seem a little less preposterous when you realize that as a Pixonic Insider, Pixonic periodically gives us ingame tokens of appreciation. Others have gotten gifts of gear, like the winners of the War Robots Visionaries “Robot Design” competition. It’s not entirely unprecedented, and hey, no harm in asking, right?
Soon thereafter the ramifications of that request began to dawn on me. I was thinking foremost of my gear, the accumulated bots and weapons I’d slowly acquired and upgraded over time. My stores of Gold, Silver, and Workshop Points. But I’d lose more than that, wouldn’t I. My stats. My league. All of my progress.
But…was that really so bad?
After all, I was sorted into Diamond 3 when the matchmaker dropped. My experience with iOS Gold, Silver, and leagues below was nil. Yet on my Android account, I’d made the long march up to Silver, gathering data all the while. The huge gap in my corresponding iOS data has long annoyed me, but I just don’t have the hours in the day to grind from scratch, or the wallet to fund another account.
In that light, perhaps losing my account was an opportunity in disguise.
I reached out to my contact at Pixonic. If they were unable to find my old account, would they work with me to create a new one? Nothing I didn’t have already, mind, this wasn’t an opportunity to “come out ahead.” But it would let me data mine the full iOS spectrum and fill in all the missing gaps in my comparative data files. Imagine, being able to actually look at the development of leagues from both sides, and perhaps even have the data to answer that long-standing question of which platform is “tougher.”
Pixonic’s response? Why not both? For Science!
They’d found and restored my old account, and offered me another one. It felt like Christmas, the really good kind where you get some GI Joes and Phantasy Star for your Sega Master System.
There were still some things to sort out. If Pixonic was going to give me a loaner account, what bots and weapons should it contain? I was asked to provide a list. What power level should it have? I suggested Level 8, which would be enough to do the job- but later amended to Level 12 as I figured, “why stop at Diamond?” (I’d ultimately receive a mixed bag.)
What League level would the account begin at? Pixonic seemed to think something more established, but I pushed for a clean slate. No sense leaving data on the table, right?
And finally- most significantly- how much of a “clubbing effect” would result? I know it’s a common gripe that Pixonic doesn’t care about War Robots players beyond their wallets, but in my interactions with them I have never found that to be the case. There was only one word for a high-powered account in a low-powered league, regardless of the virtue of motive.
Although my views on this would quickly come to evolve over the course of Project Bathyscaphe, my initial thought was, “yes, there will be lopsided matches, but I’ll blitz up the rankings so fast that I’d simply zip past most players. Like a band-aid ripped off at the speed of sound.”
I also did quite a bit of introspecting. I’m not particularly fond of players who game the system for personal self-gratification at the expense of others. Was what I’d proposed ultimately so different? The easy answer was that I was doing it “for science” rather than getting my rocks off “blasting n00bz,” but was being able to collect data just my own version of that same self-gratification? A candy apple coating on the same dead fish jellybean? I had to be sure that there was an objective good that would come of it.
Two realizations gave me the go-ahead. First, the notion that few, if any tanker-fader-clubber types probably did any soul-searching whatsoever about their actions. They do what feels good, and the feelings of other players gets about as much consideration as the makeup of Jupiter’s ammonia wells on any given day. The fact that I was, I thought, might just indicate that this was being done for the right reasons.
Second, the acceptance that there was indeed an “objective good.” The By the Numbers posts- the ones that dive into data and analytics- are some of the highest-traffic content on the site. Many in the community seem to appreciate being able to have real data to back up (or occasionally refute) their assumptions and experiences about the game. Data collection is tedious, tedious stuff. After most games I play, I’m opening up a spreadsheet and recording data on every other player in the match. It also means I have to be anti-social, because squadding is off-limits when I’m in collection mode. Can’t introduce any pesky variables!
In the weeks ahead, I’ll be chronicling the “Project Bathyscaphe” experience just as I have those on my regular accounts. Tales in Battle Stories, data and analysis in By the Numbers. And you’ll see some revamping of the By the Numbers format as well, as I start to merge platform coverage into a more holistic look at the game.
Ultimately, we’ll come out the other side of this with some solid and contemporary research, and perhaps more than a few tales of battlefield guilt.
Thanks for reading!