SPGs have been a thorn in the community’s side for a while now, whether you drive them (think of poor accuracy and frustratingly long reload times), or are sent right back to the Garage by a shot that came from out of nowhere. However, regardless of how mind numbing and discouraging it can be at times, arty belongs in the game. It just needed a thorough revision to help claim its rightful place on the team and on the battlefield. And it’s getting that in 9.18.
The update introduces a set of changes to SPG combat parameters and mechanics, all designed to make them more team-oriented, exciting and rewarding to play, and far less frustrating to play against. Instead of dealing massive damage, forcing draws and base camping, arty now work in close cooperation with the rest of the team, softening targets and helping set the attack direction from afar. The penalty for being hit decreased and won’t send you back to the Garage. So, heavy tanks are less afraid to push out and lead an assault, which should facilitate a more action-packed, fluid and fun experience for all classes.
We touched upon the changes that turn arty into long-range support fire vehicles in the Common Test announcement. Today, we break them down in more detail, while also talking about arty’s economic and individual battle missions.
Limiting the Number of SPGs
Starting with 9.18, each team has at most three SPGs, and they can’t team up in Platoons. Limiting the number of SPGs per side should stop arty-dominated battles, allowing just enough of them in to effectively support the team without scaring the other side into staying put to avoid being hunted down.
Removing the option to play in Platoons should facilitate team cooperation and aid the matchmaker in creating balanced teams. You were vocal about mismatched scenarios where a Platoon of three SPGs is placed at the top of the list and the team ends up with three long-range support fire vehicles as their main strength. The other frustrating issue was frequent cases of arty giving its all to support fellow Platoon members and totally neglecting the rest of the team. To eliminate both problems, we decided to stop SPGs from forming and joining Dynamic and regular Platoons.
Revised Firing Parameters
Large-caliber guns, coupled with the high penetration values of AP and HEAT shells, allowed SPGs to pierce thick armor, usually dealing fatal damage. This scenario forced draws and base camping; no one wants to be in a game where they barely get to play. Players would rather sit in an arty safe spot and never move than be destroyed with full health.
At the same time, the chances of landing a nice shot with arty’s notorious accuracy, long reload time, and bad dispersion used to be rather low. You chose a prospective direction, waited for the enemy to show up, aimed at a moving target—and missed in most cases. Then you had to wait for another opportunity to shoot. If the story repeated, it made you seriously consider never playing arty again.
When revising arty parameters, we tried to fix both issues:
- To lower the chances of being severely crippled, if not outright destroyed by SPGs, we significantly reduced the penetration and damage per shot for HE shells, while also removing AP, APCR, and HEAT shells for them. Of course, one-shots are still possible if the shell lands on the target and hits its ammo rack, but the chances of it happening are close to zero now.
- To improve gun handling, we decreased SPG dispersion on the move and their reload time, while also improving aiming time and accuracy. It no longer feels like a lottery: you spend far less time preparing your shot, know where the shell will land, and are certain to stun all vehicles unlucky enough to be in the blast radius, whether your shell hits one of them or not. In other words, you have better chances to meaningfully contribute to the team’s efforts.
The all-new stun mechanic is instrumental in reshaping arty into efficient team players. Now, tanks in the arty burst radius (we are talking about 122mm or larger-caliber HE shells) have their characteristics temporarily weakened. It means that SPGs can help turn the tide of battle by supporting the assault from afar. And they can provide their team with a few precious seconds to break defensive lines and catch the enemy by surprise. As for the other camp, arty won’t kick you out from the game in a single shot the way it did. Now the shell burst causes a shell shock to your tank’s Crew, which worsens a vehicle’s mobility, accuracy, and reload time for a brief period. When the stun duration passes, you can fight on.
If you look up HE shell characteristics, they now include a maximum and minimum stun duration. The actual stun duration consists of two variables, one permanent and one dynamic, and can’t be less than five seconds. The minimum stun duration shows the guaranteed time you’ll spend stunned should you find yourself in the shell burst radius. Plus, you are getting a certain amount of the remaining stun time that depends on the area within the burst radius, the amount of damage you receive from splash, equipment and consumables you mount.
Along with a vehicle’s armor, which partially helps absorb the damage and thus lower the stun duration, the negative impact of arty can be minimized further with Spall Liners and Large First Aid Kits:
- Spall Liners (all types) reduce the duration by 10%. However, Superheavy Spall Liners prove the most effective against stun as they absorb explosive damage better.
- Large First Aid Kits reduce the duration by 5%, while both Small and Large lift the stun effect altogether.
If a vehicle gets stunned by several HE shells, the stun time is calculated separately for each shell. The countdown begins after the first shell hits it. And should two stun effects overlap, one is partially or fully negated by the other.
EXAMPLE: The Type 5 Heavy is hit by an Object 261’s shell, resulting in 9 seconds of stun time. 3 seconds later, it is stunned for another 6 seconds by the G.W. Panther; another second later it’s stunned by the Conqueror Gun Carriage for 12 more seconds. In total, the Type 5 Heavy received a stun effect of 27 seconds. But in reality, it is stunned for just 16 seconds. How does it work? There are still 6 seconds of the Object 261’s stun effect left when the G.W. Panther adds its 6s. They overlap and the Panther’s stun time is fully negated by the Object 261’s. The Conqueror Gun Carriage hits the Type 5 Heavy 4 seconds after the Object 261. So, 5 seconds of its stun duration overlap with the stun effect from the Object; the remaining 7 seconds are added to the initial 9.
When your Crew is struck by an HE shell blast, they all suffer from shell shock, reducing a vehicle’s effectiveness. The stun effect, just like its duration, consists of two variables: you are guaranteed to get 75% out of the maximum decrease in parameters (you can see them listed below), plus a certain amount of the remaining 25% (this one depends directly on the damage you receive). If you are stunned with several shells, only one of them affects a vehicle’s parameters: the one with the larger decreasing coefficient.
- Engine-specific power decreases 30% and the speed—25%.
- Suspension traverse speed decreases 20%, while the turret traverse—40%.
- View range deteriorates 25%.
- Dispersion on the move increases 50%, dispersion upon turning the hull and turning the turret each increases equally.
- Reload and aim time increase 50% each.
- Accuracy decreases 25%.
Starting in 9.18 you can use as many Repair Kits, Fire Extinguishers, and First Aid Kits per battle as you require to keep the fun going. Let’s say you used the Repair Kit in the first few minutes of the battle. Then you were unlucky enough to take damage to your ammo rack right after that and used the First Aid Kit, only to take another hit to the gun. In the past, this would handicap you for the rest of a match. Now, you just need to find a safe spot and wait 90 seconds for the Repair Kit’s cooldown to end. You can then restore the damaged module and fight on with 100% effectiveness.
Multi-use consumables won’t make your spendings skyrocket. No matter how many times you activate any of the three in battle, when it ends, you’ll only have to pay its regular cost. Whether you used the Repair Kit just once or ten times, it’ll cost you 3,000 Credits. And they replenish automatically during the battle. Just keep in mind that once you use it, you’ll have to wait 90 second to get a new one.
Assisted Stun Damage
To cement arty’s new role and make it a rewarding class to play, we slightly revised their economy. Now they earn XP and Credits for the damage their teammates cause to stunned targets. You can look it up in the Battle Results Screen and in your profile (the Achievement section), where it’s listed as damage caused with your assistance.
The total amount of assisted damage, which is basically all damage dealt to stunned vehicles, gets split between all SPGs whose HE burst covered these vehicles, stunning them while they took damage from someone else. The first SPG to stun enemies receives 70% of this total amount. The remaining 30% is evenly split between all other SPG whose stun duration is counting down while this damage is deal.
If an SPG stuns an enemy that’s already been stunned by someone else, this SPG earns a portion of the 30% until the first stun has worn off. As soon as it has, the second receives 70% of the total amount of damage dealt while its stun duration is counting down, etc.
If just one SPG stunned vehicles that were damaged, the player in this SPG gets all the assisted damage.
Finally, the damage arty causes to the tank it also stuns isn’t included into the assisted damage.
EXAMPLE: Let’s get back to the Type 5 Heavy, Object 261, G.W. Panther and Conqueror Gun Carriage described in the Stun Duration part above. The Object is the first to stun the Heavy. It gets 100% assisted damage before the G.W. Panther hits, i.e. it gets it all for 3 seconds. Then, the total damage is split 70%/30% between the Object 261 and the G. W. Panther for a moment, before the Conqueror Gun Carriage joins the fun. When it does, the Object 261 continues to receive 70% of the total assisted damage until its stun wears off (for another 5 seconds). The remaining 30% is split between the G.W. Panther and the Conqueror Gun Carriage, until the Object 261 and G. W. Panther’s stun time runs out. When their stun effect wears off, the Conqueror Gun Carriage gets all assisted damage for the remaining 7 seconds.
To help a team succeed, SPGs need to be in sync with other players and coordinate their actions accordingly, so we introduced several UI elements to make this easier:
- Target area marking for friendly vehicles: Arty is now able to mark an area for incoming fire, helping teammates know where to focus the attack. To do this (with a radius of up to 15m) press the Requesting fire/Attacking key (“T” by default).
- Stun indicators: SPGs can view the damage their teammates deal to stunned vehicles, both in-battle, and in their after-battle stats (is listed as damage dealt with their assistance). In battle, everyone can see how much stun time is remaining above the stunned vehicle. In addition, when you are stunned, you are able to see how much HP has been lost, and the decreased combat parameters, in the lower left of the HUD.
- Alternative Aim: Inspired by Battle Assistant, this displays a clear projectile flight path for SPGs, in addition to a helpful terrain overview. It’s perfect for large obstacles, urban areas, and uneven terrain. By combining regular and alternative aim, you should get an edge in battle.
The changes in firing parameters along with the increase in HE shell burst radius and the stun effect should force SPGs to change their play style. They’ll aim to hit multiple targets, letting their teammates finish the job. Now, arty can be a linchpin in paving the team’s road to victory, if they play their cards right. So, watch carefully as the battle unfolds and analyze the situation. Should the opposing team attempt an offensive, stifle it by stunning the enemy. Should your team attack, clear the way for them by stunning the enemy.
If you aren’t playing in arty, pay attention to the minimap, too. If a friendly SPG signals you where it’s going to fire, help it stun as many enemy tanks as possible by luring them into the target area—but make sure you escape before a HE shell hits.
Individual Battle Missions
Following massive changes to arty, we also updated their individual battle missions.
This huge SPG makeover took a while to implement. As this isn’t our first attempt to fix arty, we started small this time to make sure we got it right. After a few internal discussions and tests, we brought the set of changes (the new stun mechanic amongst them) to arty in Sandbox, where many of you helped us fine-tune them. The test showed that the SPG revision facilitates teamwork and makes matches more fluid and fairer, and revised arty made its way to the Common Test. But the work is far from over. We’ll continue to polish it up to release and beyond, and we are asking for your help here. Now that all of you can see for yourself how SPGs play now, we want you to join the test and share your feedback on the forum.