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Jun 6, 2013

JD Interview - 1stTanks

SS: Today, we start new series of articles. Our guest reporter will be Jdtherocker. He's an American player, very well known on US forums for his series of interviews, some of which he will be making and posting on FTR. Welcome, Jd :)

First person Jd interviewed is 1stTanks, US customer support representative. The point of these interviews is to bring some of the known WG representatives, employees and players to the community's attention. So, without further ado, here's Jd:

Today I sat down with 1stTanks for a great interview that is worth its length and more!

1. What is the meaning behind your name?

I've heard a lot of jokes about my name.  This is especially true when I die first in a match (which is very rare but occasionally does happen).  It's always "Well now I see why you are called 1stTanks.... first tank to die noob!"

My game name is actually short for the unit I used to be stationed with.  Any Marine that see's my tags instantly knows what it means.  1stTanks = 1st Tank Battalion out of 29 Palms, CA.  I was a M1A1 Abrams Tank Commander in the United States Marine Corps.   I recently separated back in February after 12 years of service and came to Wargaming America around May of this year.

2. How did you start playing World of Tanks?

I actually heard about World of Tanks in February 2011 from a couple of my friends who are also Marine Tankers. I was at Fort Knox as a tank instructor, teaching brand new Marines how to become tankers. They informed me that there was an epic internet tank game that was better than anything released thus far.  Naturally this piqued my interest.  It was still in Beta and both of them (Riidean37 and Black_8) were playing it.  They both had up to about tier 6 or 7 tanks when I began.  I played it for a couple weeks while in Beta and immediately rage quit the game. Instead of taking the time to learn the in depth mechanics, I blamed Wargaming for developing such a bad product.  Obviously it couldn't have been my fault right?

When the official announcement of the April 12 release day was known, I told them I was not going to begin playing such a bad game.  They bugged, insisted, and called me every name in the book until I finally caved and agreed to sign up on the release day.

Well, from that point on World of Tanks has been a passion for me.  I cannot thank them enough for introducing me to something that would change my life.  To some people it is just a game.  For me, it expanded on a deep infatuation for tanks that I already had while substantially reducing risk factors, allowing me to make decisions that I would never dream of doing on a real M1A1 Abrams!

It's funny because even when I was tanking, I was thinking about World of Tanks!  I can recall times where I was on the Abrams (in training) and talking on the radio to other Tank Commanders about how much grinding we had left until we reached tier 4! LOL.  Truly great memories to reflect on.  These two guys are epic Marines and phenomenal tankers in real life.  Give them a shout if you see them in game.

3. What is your favorite tank?

I have a few tanks that I would consider my favorite but I will narrow it down to two.  My first would have to be the T29.  This kept me playing as I almost completely rage quit the game a second time during the T1/M6 grind.  I was really bad@tanks and couldn't understand why my M6 heavy tank performed so poorly.  Again my two buddies kept me in and once I got the T29, I fell in love.  I was running around with the 76MM broomstick sticking out of it in tier 10 battles but didn't care because I finally had armor!  A true game changer for me.  I was still grotesquely terribad at internet tanks but at least I was a heavy!

My next favorite tank is the T110E5.  It is versatile and can be used in many situations.  It has decent armor, a fantastic gun, good speed, and maneuverability.  This is the perfect tank in my opinion.

4. What play style do you utilize?

I'm not really sure how to describe my play style.  When I first began I was strictly a lead from the front type of guy.  If I wasn't brawling, then something was wrong.   I was taught in the very beginning of the game (by my good buddy Riidean37) that the goal was to get to the other side and cap fast!  Capping meant more money.  Or at least I thought.  I did not know nor did I care about damage dealt or stats. (This stunning revelation was introduced to me later).  I cared about winning.  Period.  Accelerating to the next tank quickly was my primary goal.  I remember playing on Komarin and convincing an entire team, on numerous occasions, to all get on cap at the beginning of the match.  Create a wall of big tanks and let the little guys cap fast.  Or even managing to talk everyone into doing a delayed blitz across Malinovka to surprise the enemy and cap fast.  LOL!!  It was different game back then.  Teams listened to each other.  When it worked I was a hero.  More times than not it failed though.

Needless to say, my learning curve has increased since then.  My current style depends on who I am platooned with, the tank I am utilizing, and the situation at hand.  I can be aggressive when needed or conservative to make well thought out decisions.  Situational awareness is key in this game.  If I am not looking down at the mini map at least 30 billion times during a battle, I'm doing it wrong.

Yes I did say "platooned".  To some people within the game, platooning only emphasizes how bad you are at tanks.  Solo play proves true skill.  I say "to each their own."  I have nothing to prove.  Despite the stigma, I can honestly say that I still do play primarily for fun.  If I am not having fun then there is no reason to stay.  I have the most fun platooning and having 3 tanks work in unison to achieve victory!  Your odds of winning are mathematically better than you going solo.

I also look at it from a real world tactical point of view.  A platoon of tanks consists of 4 tanks by American standards.  You will NEVER see a tank without his wingman.  What if a tank breaks down and infantry are trying to overrun it?  What if you get caught in a firefight with an armored element larger than your own?  Or even worse what if you run out of Gatorade's and jerky?!!  It just makes sense to maximize firepower and increase your chance of destroying your enemy with additional guns in the fight.  Plus you know that your wingman has your back.  Heroes can keep the solo play.  You will always see me with at least one other tank in battle.

5. Does any of your experience of utilizing a tank in real life help you perform in game? or do you believe it doesn't translate?

I think my real life experiences helped to an extent but there is definitely a point where game mechanics takes over and you must learn to master it.  When conducting a straight out comparison, real tanking and internet tanking are polar opposite.  To give you an idea, my introduction to tank life went something like this:

“Gentlemen, this 68 ton pig is designed to do one thing and one thing only….. kill.  It does not discriminate in any way.  If used correctly, it will take the life of your enemy.   If used incorrectly, it will take your life just the same.   You must learn to master this beast to maximize destruction while reducing collateral damage and remaining safe.”

My introduction to World of Tanks went something like this:

“Hey man, don’t get ‘invis-i-sniped’ and also be aware your shell will not always hit when aimed center mass!”

Tank terminology, maneuvering, certain real tactics, and communication translated easy for me into the game. What was difficult was initially grasping the complexity of the visibility, spotting, and penetration mechanics.  I mean in real life, a 60 ton tank isn't going to vanish in front of me while engaged in full combat 500 meters away. A bush camouflaging him or the fact I can't see him with the naked eye, isn’t going to stop me from simply using thermal optics to pick up a heat signature and sending a gift in the form of a 120MM sabot.

Real tanking is a lot more complicated than many people think. Multitasking and CONSTANT situational awareness is critical. You are always working.  Always!  It's hot, cramped, hot, has restricted visibility, always breaking, hot, and loud.  As a tank commander, with the aid of my crew,  I had to control the hull orientation, gun position, turret location, target identification, communication on the radio with multiple units, navigating,  perform complex calculations, troubleshoot if needed, maintain ammunition discipline ...the list goes on. This is all done simultaneously while always attempting to remain calm.  Luckily I had amazing crews.

Many gamers thinks that all aspects from real world tanking translates into the game. This is far from the truth. If you want to experience what a real tanker does, I suggest you try this: Take your entire computer outside. Ensure it is over 100 degree weather.  Sit in your car with your heaviest winter clothes on and only one window down. Log into the game and join 20 different matches where you sit there for 15 minutes and never see the enemy.

Service members conduct thousands of missions like this. Waiting for something to happen while maintaining discipline. I have 4 tours to the Middle East with hundreds of hours of conducting various missions. I can say with confidence that I would not be here today if not for the tank. It saved mine and my crew's life on multiple occasions.  My biggest complaint is hearing loss from large IED's. Many people are not as fortunate. A game can mimic a variety of things.  However, you simply cannot replicate the joy of fellow service members and yourself still being alive.

Bottom line, it's a game and a very good one.  You do not have needed to be a tanker to be good at it. Anyone can be successful if they put in the work.  Trial and error, admitting your faults, and learning the deep mechanics is all you really need.

6. So I guess it took you a while to start doing very well?

Oh yes.  There are a handful of players that were able to do extremely well right from the beginning.  Either they learned from beta or did research on their own before having too many battles.  I was not one of these people.  Nothing mattered to me except having fun and getting to the next tank.  If that meant bypassing certain equipment to streamline to the next level, then so be it.

It wasn't until Riidean37 received orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Black_8 was put on a different work schedule than me that I started to change my game play.  I had no one to platoon with really so I decided to check out tank companies. I had always seen them but never participated nor did I ever join a clan.  I had around 8,000 battles at the time with 56% win ratio.  I didn't realize what I had until I was sitting in reserve in one of Badfish1060's tank companies and listening to these guys talk.  They would always say "pick 1stTanks". Then they began to talk about my win ratio.  This exposure to working with an actual team was game changing for me.  It was my first introduction to a "caller" aka a guy that gives orders in battle.  I loved every aspect.  I played tank companies for about 1K battles or so, most of which was in my KV1S.  This is pretty obvious.  I get accused of stat padding because of this but honestly at the time I did not know any better.  I enjoyed finally being apart of a coordinated team that knew how to win.  I also liked the company of people I played with.

This eventually led to my first clan Elvis, and my introduction to many players within the community.   I started to platoon with different players that were good!  I met sr360 here.  He was the first person that really began teaching me things I never knew about.  It was amazing how much knowledge he had about every tank in the game by memory.

Everyone likes to focus on the big name guys within the community that we know are epic.  Garbad, sela, CarbonWard, etc.  In my mind, my clan was some of the best players I had ever seen.  I had no clue about the top players.

I bounced around for a little bit to different clans.  Continually growing my friends lists and range of platoon mates.  Some of the people that stick out are sr360, Kooc, Rosh87, xREAPx (yes I said it), Chizhang, NYPD, roslanking1, drynitz, Chuckspiers, T_om, kriegsmaster17, ieatcookies, AutismSpeaks, Ovid, cycliscs, SturmButcher, Tanker91, SuperGG and many more.  I even gained respect for our Clan Wars enemies as they were great players as well.  Like lozarus.

As my skills improved, so did my ego.  I turned into a really stuck up person in game.  I never considered myself really good but always heard from others how good I was.  I began to ignore old friends, become angry at random players easily, and only associate with similarly skilled people.  I thought I was the best.

Then I met Illusion.  I had never seen stats like his before.  I asked him politely to platoon and he accepted.  He warned me if I was bad, he would kick me off his list.  I agreed.  Well I am still on there so I guess I was not terrible lol.  Anyways, I had NEVER seen players play like him and the people he would platoon with (like _ESA_).  It blew my mind.  If I would make a judgment call and it was incorrect, he would instantly correct me and teach me why.  If I played poorly in a round, he would tell me straight out.  I did not mind because I was learning.

There were two distinct instances where I learned that I was not as good as I thought I was.  The first was joining -G-.  It was here that I learned about some of the really talented players from clans like -G-, Forge, S.I.M.P., HAVOK, PBKAC, etc.  These guys performed at such a level that I was lost for words.  The second was when the cap point deduction to stats hit.  (Remember how I was taught?).  I realized my stats that I obsessed about were actually inflated and I didn't even know it.  I dropped a good 200 points or so off my efficiency.

I did a reevaluation of my focus within the game.  I had become someone that I wasn't in real life and was pretty ashamed of it.  I treated many people badly for no reason.  I was too focused on stats and lost the fun factor.

In Anvil I found the best community thus far.  I absolutely loved it there.  I re-shifted my focus back to fun and began to platoon with friends again.  These people deserved better than how I was and I'm not too big of a man to admit that.  I still do not consider myself extremely good.  I am a product of great people, good callers, and platooning 24/7.  I do not need to be the best.  I just needed to start enjoying the game again.

7. What advice would you than give to newer players trying to perform well?

Hang in there and set small goals for yourself. Something that is obtainable in the near future.

Platoon with other players. If you find a fixed crew of about 6 people or so, platoon daily with each other. You will be surprised at how proficient you guys become together.

If you find a really good player that happens to let you platoon with them, take the constructive criticism they give you. They are good for a reason.

Make mistakes. The chances of you making that mistake again are lower the next time.

Do not let yourself get to a point where you feel you cannot learn something from someone else.

Have thick skin. Remember it's just words.

READ THE WIKI!  Everyone is quick to point the finger at other players.  Sometimes a look in the mirror will open your eyes.  I had 13,000 games or so when the YouTube camouflage video came out.  It blew my mind at what I didn't know!

I think CrabEatOff said it best: "it is not a rush to the top!" Trust me when I say it doesn't get easier with bigger tanks.

And most importantly have fun!  Stats are not everything.

8. What makes a good platoon?

Teamwork, communication, and knowing each other’s play style.  Know your buddy's strengths and weaknesses.  This takes time and patience between the 3 of you.  And stay together in battle!  Unless the situation calls for it, why separate from each other?  If my platoon is playing and we see an enemy platooned tank fighting solo, we instantly know to focus him out before his backup arrives.  If the same situation presented itself but his mates are close by, we would be a bit more hesitant to attack.

9. Any tanks you are looking forward to unlocking?

Not really. I just unlocked the T57. This is my first new tank in a long time. I'm not a very adventurous guy. I stick with what I know.

10. What was your most memorable match?

You would think most people remember their epic games from the past. I remember my most epic fail. I was new still, maybe about 3,500 battles or so and playing on Karelia in a public match. The battle was loading and I had just come from the same map a little while before where a rush plan worked. So I begin to rally the troops: "Hey guys! EVERYONE UP THE MIDDLE! It'll work!"  Most were hesitant, one guy was pleading (practically begging) not to do it.   But I was persuasive. "Come on guys, bold moves win battles!"  One by one I gained their acceptance.  Before the countdown was over I talked all 15 of them into it.

Now in the battle beforehand, we all yolo'd right at the beginning. We ran into a little resistance but did catch them by surprise with a 5-0 victory.  This time I thought, we should delay it by 2 minutes. This will cause the enemy to be spread out too far to prevent the cap fast.  In reality, it allowed the enemy to gain the high ground and flanks. Oops.

So at the 13 minute mark, "Guns up, Let's do this!"  We launch with me leading the way.  Full speed.  Confident in my plan.  I looked at my team.  14 tanks following me to victory!  About a minute and a half later, it was a complete slaughterhouse. A massacre. There were bodies everywhere. Back then, it was very rare to see a blowout of 15-0. This was my first one. And I was 100% the cause lol.

Oh man. The rage was strong that battle.  My name popped up in chat so many times I lost count.  I don't think I had that many profanities thrown at me at once since bootcamp.  Of course the enemy team is adding fuel to the fire. Boasting and bragging.  One of them said, "Good job red team, who's brilliant idea was that".....I exited without saying a word, completely embarrassed. LOL!!

11. Any tanks you weren't good in?

Arty and TD's

12. What led you to working for WGA?

I actually found out through the game. For some reason I decided to look at the general chat section. I never go there. I saw a post by SgtGrunt to a player that was asking about jobs at WGA. I was getting out of the military anyways and figured why not. Here I am today!

This is the perfect job for me.  I could not have asked for a better group of people to work with. (interviewer's note: d'awww)

13. Luckiest kill you ever got?

On side one of El Halluf.  I'm in my Type 59.  Game launches and I take off full sprint headed to the beach.  On my way there, two T54's have the same idea.  I realize I am by myself (my platoon mates were TD's sniping from the ridge and missed their shots) and thought it was over. We were all max speed and I take a shot and ammo rack one of the T54's.  He spontaneously combusted.  The second T54 makes it to the beach without getting hit also.  I lay my gun and blind shot with fully bloomed reticle.  Boom! Ammo racked  100% to dead.

Accusations are thrown.  Bragging rights earned. Win.

14. What is your favorite map? (I would laugh if you said Karelia)

Ruinberg and Mines

15. Any in game medals you had difficulty earning?

Yes.  For the life of me, I cannot achieve the Burda's Medal and the DeLanglande's Medal.  I come close and get denied every time.

16.  Last Words?

We're done for! Get out!


  1. Thanks much appreciated, if anyone has question/comments I'll gladly respond

    1. Any chance you'll ever get one with SerB?

      I guess you'd need to work your way up there, but that would be epic :P

    2. VEry very unlikely but you never know, pretty sure he'll troll me the whole time

    3. Even a bunch of troll answers would be fun to read XD

      BTW, could you do one with the chieftain next?

    4. Its coming eventually he's busy right now but it will come

    5. I'm pretty sure I could write a small Python app that would provide you with an "interview with SerB" :-) The responses would be pretty trollish though...

    6. hehehe, a serb generator

      randomly generates nerfs too?

    7. xCaptainObviousxJun 6, 2013, 7:32:00 PM

      Adam, you should make this SerB generator as an android app. I'd pay for it.

    8. Experiment with shindanmaker first.

    9. Like that 8ball that answers life's greatest mysteries?

  2. does anyone know of the youtube camo video link?
    if so could you please post it as a reply to this comment.


  3. The big downside of the random battles on EU server: everybody speak different language and so there is never enough time to communicate a plan.

    Interesting to read from a non-gamer.

    1. In NA some people don't even speak so that doesn't help out either :P

    2. Yeah, very true.

      Personally I find a good team can work of minimap pings alone :-)

    3. A good team generally wins in any case, because they are good. ;)

  4. A long story almost totally lacking interest. He's an employee of WG and all your questions were about how he played the game badly.

    Total waste of reading time.

    1. 1. I'm interviewing them more on this level.

      2. They are under NDA and I won't try to make them leak anything.

    2. Tbh, I'm not really interested in 'why' it's boring. It just is, and therefore shouldn't be published here on this excellent site in my opinion. There is no real difference to interviewing any WoT player. No revelations. No awesome tips. Just self-indulgent.
      Frank, please don't go for quantity of content over quality.

    3. wasn't boring for me either. It was interesting to hear how a RL tanker views the game and makes comparisons to it and RL tanking.

    4. I disagree Knobby. Each to his own, though...

    5. @Knobby.... a bit harsh, interview was moderately interesting to me.
      @JD, you might want to ask some more searching questions of WG employees. They won't leak restricted info, but some opinions on more contentious issues would be interesting. eg. repulsive attitude of SERB to customers, US/Bylorussian relations, areas of the game that they don't like, opinion on WT etc.

    6. you know the whole don't like don't read thing?

      it doesn't always apply, but i think it does in this case

    7. Well, if you all enjoyed it then fair enough. I'm surprised though.

  5. Was a good read. And it confirmed me that I am doing right, learning, improving, have fun with or without platoon mates.
    Recently I began to platooning with a good player who learned me where to put myself when driving different tanks, instead of being bloodthirsty and doing dmg and dumb moves. Patience is the key and hit when the time is right.
    - DMminions

    1. Glad to hear you enjoyed it :).

      I too find very good tips as I interview players

  6. Great interview, I laughed out loud for real a couple of times.

  7. not 10 minutes ago i met 1stTanks in game.

    the enemy team got rolled 15 to 2

    1. he is devastating in his strength,I think I have been rolled by him too

    2. i was in his team though :D

      i'll spot you a replay if you want

  8. Good article, pleasure to read. But u could ask him what is he doing as WG employee.

    1. He's works in customer support.
      Expect a new interview tomorrow much more focused on what the staff does

  9. I really LOL'D HARD when I read about the biggest fail :D

    It somehow reminded me of one of my best games. I was really pissed off, becouse I had a really "special" player in my team last match on erlenberg, clicked "battle" - erlenberg again. After 2 minutes it was starting to look bad - we had 2-3 tanks defending one bridge, but the other side started to camp... I said to myself: "FUCK THIS! WAAAAAAAAAGHH!!!!!!!!" and rushed with my kv1s, gun blazing. Wasted opposing tanks, crossed the river and with some help from campers that decided to move - destroyed a tiger near enemy spawn... And then with less than 400 hp I managed to solo an IS, despite the fire that took out my gun. :D We won with me with somewhere around 20-100 hp iirc... And more than 2k dmg. I still have screenshots of the results on my pc with dead gpu :D

    Damn, that felt great.


  10. "there is definitely a point where game mechanics takes over and you must learn to master it."
    What a fool. He thinks you can master something in this game. Lol.

    1. Says you. BTW - who are you? Any stats? Accomplishments? If you're some 55%+ wr 1500+ eff/wn player from one of the top clans and got to top three in tournaments (like let's say mangled metal/wcg/whatever) - than ok. But why would someone like that post as anon? To troll?

      I'm pretty sure you're one of the sad "I haz 45% wr becouse of mm conspiracy/0 dmg shots bug/ etc" bunch. Use your in game nick mista gangsta, especially when you call someone a fool.


    2. So tell what can you master in wot? Everything is random, secret, slow and with a lag.
      Im (general/recent) wr 63/77 wn7 1900/2400 guy. Ive won many tournaments and i havent mastered anything.

    3. An obvious TROLL. A 1900/2400 guy would NEVER say the. He knows he can make a difference and not rely on randomness. And to blame lag? Come on man...Go lick a window somewhere else. Excellent read!

    4. Yup, definately a troll. The only random parts are acc(sort of less random since 8.6)/pene/dmg rolls while the rest is the game mechanics, that is known quite well.

      Seriously I can't imagine someone like loofah (even though I think he's a dick, I have to say he's one hell of a skilled player) hami or whoever else talk BS like that.

      BTW - I didn't know PATONs won any tournaments... :P


  11. My former boss has been a commander on an artillery tank. It was fun to ask him about it, but similar to this interview, the connection with WoT was very limited.

    It would have been interesting to hear 1sttanks' opinion on WW2 tanks (without thermal optics, etc), because it's true that modern tanks are quite different from those oldies.


  12. "As my skills improved, so did my ego. I turned into a really stuck up person in game. I never considered myself really good but always heard from others how good I was. I began to ignore old friends, become angry at random players easily, and only associate with similarly skilled people. I thought I was the best." same thing happens to i'm just filling out a lot of another player ignore list :-P

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