The auto-aim feature in World of Tanks is bemoaned as easy mode – by those killed by it – and noob mode – by those driving heavy armor. This seldom used feature forces the tank to aim at the designated target’s center point, and attempts to keep the aim there as the tank moves around. I’ve had people accuse me of using auto-aim when I wasn’t, to which I’ve replied, “If your tank died to auto-aim, you’re driving it wrong.” This sentiment is one the community holds in general agreement, relegating normal use of auto-aim to players with poor response time or physical disability. I have since then seen the error of my ways, and I’ve discovered situations where auto-aim can be a useful tool.
It’s rather not good
Auto-aim will focus on the center point of your designated target and does not take into account any movement or armor considerations. Unless your target is presenting a flat side to you, this greatly increases the chance your shells will bounce. Manual aim allows consideration to be given to weak points – such as hatches and cupolas – and tactical targets – such as tracks, ammunition rack areas, and engines. Auto-aim just aims at the target and stands a good chance of impacting naturally or artificially angled armor.
Auto-aim also does not account for any movement in your tank or the target. If the target is immobile and your tank is carouseling, this won’t matter, but if the target is moving laterally it will not aim with the proper lead to hit. Forcing a better firing solution by driving toward or away from your target instead of across may help, but it makes you easier to hit as well.
Auto-aim is also tricky to turn on and off. It only requires a right mouse click on the target to engage, but the cursor must be unobstructed to do this. You cannot target a subject in hard cover unless you can find an exposed bit to aim at, as the silhouette will not suffice. Distant and small targets are also more difficult to target, as most of us are more used to clicking the left mouse button than the right, and thus our muscle control is more precise with the left button. Turning it off is considerably more difficult though, as it requires a lucky right mouse button click elsewhere. I write lucky because – much like Duck Tape – it is somewhat sticky once applied. Also, since holding the right mouse button will also lock the gun elevation and turret rotation, slips will sometimes engage auto-aim unintentionally.
Except when it is good
I never used auto-aim intentionally until I bought the T-50. I started testing it to leave me free to drive since the most important thing in an active scout tank is mobility, not shooting accuracy. After toying with it for a bit, I theorized it might correct an issue I was having with the ELC AMX that was limiting my ability to complete drive-by shootings. I seemed to miss a lot, even at point blank range when speeding by the target. Because of the turning radius of the tank, I couldn’t get any closer to the target than I was before peeling off or I’d hit it.
We all know the T-50 is a fast tank. Direct observation tells us a T-50 driver that slams into an obstacle in the middle of a firefight at high speed is paying too much attention to what they were shooting at and not enough to where they were going. The underestimated advantage of auto-aim is it tries to keep that aim on the target regardless of the turn or bounce of your vehicle, what direction you’re looking, or what gets between the two of you. It’s very easy to out turn the turret with your hull, and in active maneuvers auto-aim will not be able to keep up because it cannot anticipate your actions, but if you allow it time to adjust before firing it will at least make hits possible. When traveling at high speed and turning, gun dispersion will be at a maximum and any shots fired at range will probably miss regardless of what you do, but with a rapid firing weapon like the SH-37 aiming dead center of enemy mass isn’t much worse than manual aiming. The shells aren’t going to hit the exact point you’re aiming at anyway. These recommendations are not exclusive to the T-50 either; they apply to any scout tank that is reasonably agile and fast moving.
When scouting, one should be far more concerned with spotting and evading fire than killing things. It doesn’t take many false moves to get a tank like that killed, and every hit it takes stands a good chance to be its last. Peppering targets with shot won’t get many kills, but it does get their attention and rattles some people even if it’s not inflicting much damage. This makes engaging auto-aim a good idea when driving into congested areas or trying to keep the enemy’s focus so your team is free to engage unmolested. In the example match below, I did my best to avoid incoming fire, keep a visual on primary targets, and keep the target focused on me so my teammates could do the killing. I used auto-aim liberally, and it’s fairly easy to see where it’s engaged and disengaged. Even though I’m on the losing end of this one, it illustrates how important good driving can be in a tank that fast.
Mind the Bumps
The most accurate aiming method will always be the fully zoomed in gunner’s sight. Unfortunately, using the gunner’s sight at close range is a little like a sniper trying to use their scope to aim when storming a building. The limited field of view, zoom feature, and precision aiming work against you in close quarters where targets can dart across your view before you can react. It also causes problems when the tank is moving across rough terrain, as your aim will focus on what your reticle points at. Unless you can anticipate the exact angles your tank will bounce at, you will not be able to move your mouse up and down to maintain aim over bumps.
As a general point of advice: If your weapon reloads quickly and you are interested in general mayhem, it is wise to aim at the most distant target in a clump if possible and drive in a haphazard manner to keep enemy tanks between you and your target. This will ensure that your shells have more surface area of enemy tanks to hit, and shots that miss your primary target may hit their nearby allies anyway. This also means that your opponents will sometimes block each others lines of fire or even induce friendly fire casualties trying to get you.
The unscoped aim isn’t affected by the tanks pitch and yaw, and is thus much easier to use when aiming at a moving target from a moving tank. The problem is one of perspective. As the tanks come closer together, the angle at which the target tank is viewed comes closer to perpendicular to your firing angle. The gunner will faithfully aim where your reticle points, which is the top of the target by the time you take the shot in an ELC AMX drive-by, not the side. At this point, you actually have to miss in the right direction in order to hit the target. Your chances of hitting anything top out at 50%, because any shell that deviates higher than your aim is guaranteed to miss.
Given the timeframe of the ELC AMX drive-by, auto-aim is the perfect tool. Let the computer take care of correcting for the bumps and aiming at the center of the target while I focus on when to take the shot, when to peel off, and avoiding ramming any nearby tanks during my strafe. The D 914 has tremendous penetration for a Tier 6 gun, and missing a weak spot using auto-aim is preferable to missing the target entirely because your view is bouncing. This, of course, means I’ll need to dust off the ELC and prove my point.
The most important thing about auto-aim is remembering to use it as a tool for interface correction, not as a crutch. Real tanks have multiple crewmembers so that no one person has to do everything, so using auto-aim to take care of the gunnery while you worry about the driving makes perfect sense.
Just remember that using it while sniping is foolish.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Saiphas Cain.