Sometime last week in on Silentstalker’s blog For the Record, in one of his daily translations, I read that the mechanism for fire extinguishers is about to undergo a change, or more specifically what is going to change are the mechanics of fire extinguishers.
To recap briefly how things work at the moment. Sometimes when your tank gets hit in certain modules there is a chance of a fire starting. If a fire does start, an Automatic Fire Extinguisher (which is the premium gold consumable) automatically kicks in immediately and puts the fire out. Being a premium consumable it also comes with a bonus that reduces the chance of a fire actually starting. The Manual Fire Extinguisher (the regular credit consumable) does not have this bonus. Also, whenever one catches fire on has to manually hit a key to get it to work. If one is fast this can operate very quickly indeed, so that one only takes one “tick” of damage, and therefore becomes almost as good as the premium version.
The change is to make Manual Fire Extinguishers also automatic, but to make them take longer to operate than the premium version. How much longer is not known. The firefighting skill may be amended to make these new regular extinguishers start sooner, probably in addition to the current functions of that skill. This change is slated to occur when premium consumables are made available for credits as the same ratio as premium ammo (1 gold = 400 credits, so a premium consumable priced at 50 gold can be purchased for 20k credits).
The day after the translation in which this was announced Silentstalker translated that the official reason for the change was the elimination of auto-clicker macros. These are clearly something that Wargaming regards as cheating, and have decided to change a game mechanic to stop them from working. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that – indeed I can think of at least one game (EVE Online) where changing game mechanics have been a very efficient method of disrupting and/or stopping various forms of cheating (chronicled in loving detail by The Nosy Gamer). I am also sure this is at least part of the reason for the change – indeed it may even be the catalyst. However, I can think of at least one other reason, the bête noir of players: balance.
To put it plainly, currently Automatic Fire Extinguishers are underpowered compared to the premium Large Repair Kit and Large First Aid Kit, or perhaps more accurately the “gap” between Automatic Fire Extinguishers and Manual Fire Extinguishers is too small given players can activate Manual Fire Extinguishers very quickly even without a macro. Compare the Fire Extinguishers to Repair Kits and First Aid Kits, which are the other two consumables they most closely resemble. Both premium Large Kits and Large Repair Kits give an analogous bonus just like Automatic Fire Extinguishers do, and likewise the regular variants do not. The chief difference between both First Aid and Repair premium and regular consumables however is that the regular variants only repair/heal one module or crew-member, whereas the premium version repairs/heals all modules or crewmembers. Particularly in the latter half of the game, where tanks can absorb much more punishment and take on a lot more damage, it is easily possible to have several modules damaged and destroyed, or several crewmembers incapacitated (especially if one has just survived a late-tier SPG hit). However, there is no way that human or artificial effectiveness can make the regular consumables repair more than one module, or heal more than one crewmember. Now in some battles this difference between regular and premium variants will not be so pronounced, some battles only one module is damaged or one crewmember hit. The same is true of Fire Extinguishers, sometimes the added speed of the Automatic Fire Extinguishers really is immaterial – either because the battle is effectively over one way or other, or because you are about to be destroyed even without the added hassle of the fire. However, for those situations where the difference between regular and premium is significant, Manual Fire Extinguishers can be almost as effective at putting out fires, whereas Small Repair Kits and Small First Aid Kits can never aspire to be as effective as their premium counterparts.
The other way to look at it is that in both Small Repair Kits and Small First Aid Kits the player has to make a choice of what to repair or heal, but he has no impact on the effectiveness of the module. In Manual Fire Extinguishers player skill determines how effective they are. This change takes away that element of player skill, making Manual Fire extinguishers more similar to Small Repair Kits and Small First Aid Kits, and increases the comparative advantage of the premium Automatic Fire Extinguisher.
Now, from the comment threads on the above posts I rather get the impression this change is going to annoy quite a lot of people, and I can quite see why. Their gameplay is going to suffer, and control is being taken away. That is never pleasant. However, I am going to go out on a limb here and say I have no particular problem with this. It is like any balance nerf – these are not nice, and one does not have to enjoy having your favourite tank nerfed – but they are necessary for game balance. Also this change is being introduced when the premium version becomes accessible by credits. That means to get that better performance one will no longer have to use real money. If the Fire Extinguisher change was occurred before the switch to credit-purchasable premium consumables I would be more aggrieved. As it is, I think for most players this should be a very manageable transition.
This change will mean a change in how I equip my tanks (as it should for everyone who uses consumables). To begin with I will cease using Fire Extinguishers on lower-tier vehicles. Currently in most cases they don’t live long enough to use a Manual Fire Extinguisher anyway, and this will become less likely in the future. I will probably end up putting on a Large Repair Kit or, less likely, a Large First Aid Kit instead – not to use but to benefit from the bonus. In mid-late Tier vehicles I play very often I probably will end up swapping out the Manual Fire Extinguishers for Automatic Fire Extinguishers. I do not, in all honestly, expect to use all that many. I find I don’t catch fire all that often, all things considered. Individual tanks though I may choose to put a Large Repair Kit in its place – perhaps higher tier light tanks or SPGs, again to benefit from the bonus (though this time they might also sometimes be used). I do not, in all honesty, see me using many Manual Fire Extinguishers after this change – with one proviso – it all depends on how long the delay is, and if/how the Firefighting skill ends up impacting this.
Regardless my purchasing strategy for premium consumables will be the same as is my strategy for regular consumables – stock up when they are on offer. Presuming the usual 50% discount it will cost 10,000 credits per premium consumable. Expensive, but if I am reckoning on using an Automatic Fire Extinguisher once every 10-15 battles (which feels about right) that cost will easily be defrayed by earnings. That points out a further impact of this change – it will suck some credits out of the game, causing folks to play more battles in the mid-tiers to get credits. Hardly the worst thing.
I do wonder though how many people will not read the patch notes and be surprised by this change when it occurs (probably 8.5). There might be some amusing tears for a few days afterwards.