Opening the 2014 Time Capsule

So, according to my notes, this is my second year doing this. Instead of predictions at the end of the year, at the beginning of the year I try to capture my hopes, dreams, and thoughts for the year in one space, and then go back and look at them the next year. This change was inspired by SWTOR after I realized how I went from gung-ho-on-fire for it to hating it in the course of a year. How quickly things change in the world of online gaming, right? So here is where I was 12 months ago, and my reflections now.

I Was Looking Forward To Four Things:

    World of Warplanes: Vought F7U Cutless

The Cutless was my favorite tier 10 at launch, and was supposed to be my first end game plane. Its defensive handling and speed made it a great choice. But I ran into two problems. One is that the Corsair line has been perpetually underpowered in the game. It is unrealistically nerfed in its speed and handling, and tends to be one of the worst choices to fly at tiers 7-8 (where the grind kicks in). So while I unlocked the tier 7, I never went beyond that. It sits in the hanger, gathering dust. The more serious problem though, was Warplanes population struggles. While things are better now, its still hard to find any sort of decent size match above tier 7, and anytime they do a special (like the one that has been going on the last month) its impossible to play anything other than the tiers directed (in this case, tier 4) because that is where everyone congregates. Its good for the overall health of the game to get people together, and there is no real need for a tier 10 yet, but still, it is frustrating. I have used free XP to unlock and upgrade the FJ-1 Fury, at tier 9, and one that is probably better suited for my play style than the Corsairs were.

    Elder Scrolls Mania

I think I spent just about half the year on subscription for Elder Scrolls Online. I continue to believe it to be a great MMO. But it is almost exclusively used by me for playtime with my brother, and the last two months have been nuts for both of us. We talked this week and are anxious to make a return to the game in the coming weeks. Part of my joy is the flexibility in playstyles. Its not unusual for me to have a different weapon and skill set equipped each night. Oh and the crafting…my word the crafting. I collect crafting styles like some people collect stamps. Or pets. Or achievements. Yeah, lets go with those.

    Playing Old RPG Franchises

I tried Wizardry 7. Oi. Character creation alone was crazy frustrating to me. So I figured maybe I went toooo far back in time, ya know? So I picked up Might and Magic 10 on sale, and it was a bust too. So I tried M&M7 again. Also a bust. The magic just wasn’t there. And that’s when I realized the problem wasn’t that I had gone too far back, but that I hadn’t gone far enough. So, I busted out some Might and Magic 2. Its still hard as hell, but at least my expectations are in line with reality. And I don’t have to deal with an inventory system from hell – Might and Magic 2 restricts every character to 12 items – six equipped and six in the backpack.


And character creation evokes the feeling of classic tabletop dice rolling for some reason.

...can't quite put my finger on why.
…can’t quite put my finger on why.

So, nostalgia enjoyed, thanks again NWC and Van Canegham for making a timeless classic!

    The Return of WoW

Yeah, not so much. Not sure why, but by the time release rolled around, any enthusiasm I felt was completely nonexistent. I couldn’t tell you why, as I’ve said before, I think WoW today is much improved from when I last played regularly (2007-2008), but apparently, for me, that ship has sailed.

I Had Three Burning Questions:

    What Will Come of Wildstar?

It came, it saw, it had some success. But I wondered if it would have some impact on the MMO landscape. And quite frankly, I don’t think it did. It certainly did not aim to be groundbreaking in style, graphics, or gameplay, but I think they did want to bring back some of that old subscription magic. And for me at least, they did not (though I would argue that, again *for me*, ESO did manage to do just that)

    Will ArchAge Be Arriving in 2014

This was bizarre. After months and months of dragging feet, Trion finally put their full wait behind this thing and shoved it right out the door, along with a hefty preorder price tag. The long wait time, sudden ramp up, and ridiculous pricing levels muted my enthusiasm. I had hoped that this would be the next big thing, but the mindless development enslavement to PvP and propensity for people to be jackasses (ie, gank helpless players), doomed this game to a dark corner. Oh, sorry, “niche market”, that’s the spin we want to put on it. Sad.

    How Will WarThunder’s Ground Game Hold Up Against World of Tanks?

Boy is this one the opposite of my other questions. Ground Forces is, for me, an unqualified success. I have all but abandoned World of Tanks in favor of what I see as superior graphics, superior gameplay, and superior dedication to historical sensibility. I had no idea this was coming but I’m the happier for it. And while the game still has its struggles at times, the plane/tank crossover in one client has actually siphoned flying time away from WoWp as well. This is a case in point for why I do these articles. I had no idea 12 months ago I would be this deep in WT.

I Had Two Places I Wanted To Return To:

    EVE Online

I played again, I loved the visuals all over again. And once again, I quit after a month, because…well, I was bored again. There has never been a prettier game with less to do for those who came looking for an MMORPG. I think EVE is probably best classified as an MMOPBG – massively multiplayer online persistent battle ground. Because for all its wonderful variety, at its heart its a one trick pony. Still – what is it that GMC says? Do one thing and do it well? Well that is EVE – they do one thing, and they do it so well that a decade later, nobody else has even come close.


I’m glad I went back, because I learned something. I learned that the problem I had with TOR was not all the random side quests. It was the story quests themselves. The terrible face choices and the arbitrary light side/ dark side assignation drove me away more than the slow gameplay and group advancement did. So when the 12x XP event happened last December, I literally laughed. I can’t think of anything less enticing to me than to say “just come and play for the story.” I probably have a stash of cash now, and who knows, maybe one day I will go back and putz around again, but right now, I have lost any latent desire or nostalgia that was present.


So there ya go. I’m in a different place on War Thunder, Eve Online, ArchAge, and SWTOR than I was a year ago. Stay tuned for the 2015 time capsule coming in the next couple of days to a blog near you (ie, this one!)

First Impressions, Again and Again

*Note, this post starts with War Thunder and branches out. IF you play MMO’s in general, this post is still for you…) One of the things that struck me, as I found myself playing War Thunder’s ground forces yet again last week, is how differently the aesthetic of the game is. And you can see it right from the very start. Here is what the beginning of a match in WoT looks like for me:


And here is what the beginning of a match in WT Ground Forces looks like for me:

shot 2014.12.11 22.40.38

Do you see it? Granted in the first picture, I’m using a mod, so the names are a little more colorful than normal, but in that picture only three of the fifteen tanks on my team made it beyond prototype/testing. Everything about it, from camera angles to UI screams: this is a game!

But in the second picture, my team of twelve includeas all historical, battle tested vehicles, and in this battle – all from one nation, Germany. Its harder to tell because of the lighting, but the second picture includes my Jagdpanzer IV L/70A, a Jagdpanzer 38t, and a pair of Tiger I’s. And everything about it, from the minimal UI, to the models, screams: this…is…tanks!

And that’s the first impression you get, every time. It definitely sets a different level of expectations in your head as to how this is going to go down and how you should play it. And for me, that’s part of what brings me back. And, also, that is something unique about games – that intro music, that loading screen? Those are very important things for your Dev team to work on. Because they set the stage for everything else in the game.

I still remember the theme music, loading screen, and menu select sounds from EQOA. Same with EQ2. Even SWTOR, with all the baggage I have with that game, stirs something in me when the powering up sound effect tells you the launcher is ready for log in. Its a first impression that keeps giving, over and over again.

Even as Bhagpuss wrestles with the changes that are inherent to a living game over a long period of time, we can say that these first impressions are part of what combats the ennui or the growing distance with a game. They are part of what sets fire to the blood and conjures the ghosts of gaming past.

When I thought last year about where I might want to return to for a visit in 2014, I can tell you its not coincidence that the atmosphere of those games I pondered is what made them my main choice. They were games where I could get a fresh hit of that first impression all over again.

Maybe this is the essence of nostalgia. Or maybe its something everone has known all along and I’ve just now figured out. But whatever it is, it can be a powerful draw for me. And right now, its drawing me into something that, a year ago, I really didn’t think I would be interested in.

Popular WoT Blogger Ponders “Woman’s Day” Events

So last weekend was International Woman’s Day weekend. Many of you may not have known that, others may have stumbled across it on Twitter or Facebook or other social media sites. But only one gaming company nodded to it directly, that I know of anyway, and that is Wargaming.

In addition to pledging matching dollars to women’s veteran charity agencies, Wargaming produced a little video as a nod to all the women gamer’s out there.

Since you probably don’t speak Russian, you’ll want Silentstalker’s translation here.

Silentstalker, or SS as he is commonly referred to is a big time blogger with many many hits. And he ponders a question at the end of his post:

“I was just wondering… why don’t we have stuff like this on EU? You know, something cute, normal, funny, not awkward (I don’t know about you but for example that EU office Harlem Shake video made my face twitch). I don’t know. The Americans seem not to be able to do this type of “normal” humor either…”

I don’t know about the EU, but I can answer the question for here in the North American region. We can’t have things like this because invariably someone will be offended, take umbrage, and then play the martyr card. And then the company has to apologize and face the fall out on seven different forms of social media as being assholes who don’t know any better. Hell, I will probably get flak for posting the video here and even bringing up the topic.

The bottom line is that we have taught companies that we can’t be trusted and that we can’t have nice things. And so there will be no fun and cute little videos, because the risk is just too great. And that – is a shame. Because then instead of celebrating female gamers like we could have been doing this past weekend, instead we just remained silent. Years ago Monty Python was legendary in their belief that there was nothing so serious that it could not be included in the realm of humor. Now we are surrounded by the tide of topics that is off limits because they must be handled by kid gloves and a full PR department, or not handled at all.

Reminds me of an old saying from Chesterton: “Good taste, the last and vilest of human superstitions, has succeeded in silencing us where all the rest have failed. (Heretics, Kindle Location 75)

Premium Theory

Well all of the premium vehicles in World of Tanks and Warplanes are on sale for a few more days here, and I have some decisions to make. For the uninitiated, premium vehicles are ones that generate a bonus to the income you earn in a match. For high tiers this bonus can be significant. There is a trade off though, in that premium vehicles are balanced to be “average” for the tier, and thus rarely have any inherent advantages going into the match, since similar tier vehicles will most likely be better than them in one or more ways.


In tanks, premiums go up to tier 8, but they are quite expensive – $35-$55 a pop depending on which one you want and how much money they tend to print for their owners (based on server stats). I already have three of those (two of them were of the cheaper variety, and the third I earned for free), but there are still a few interesting ones. In Warplanes they go up to tier 5, and thus are significantly cheaper, particularly right now with all the holiday sales. In a perfect world, the collector in me would like to own them all. In reality, I have to make some decisions.

In doing so, I’ve realized there are really two ways to narrow that process down.

The first way is pretty simple – buy what you like. If you have heard from a friend it was fun, or it fits your play style – grab it up. This is essentially how I have bought my premiums up until now. I’d try it on the test server, talk to friends, and pick it up when I could afford it. After all, if you are buying these for extra credit income, you are going to be playing a significant number of matches in them. So you want to get something that you will enjoy playing a lot. Part of that enjoyment may, admittedly, be having a challenge. I purchased the cheap and difficult KV-5 premium for World of Tanks. It is not the best tier 8 by a long shot. Its huge, has no armor, and a pathetic gun. But, I think its fun to play – it requires strategy and careful use of what advantages it does possess and thus gives you a nice warm fuzzy when you do well with it. The same is true of my XFL-1 in Warplanes (the Navy variant of the legendary P-39). Its a fun aircraft, but limited.


The second way is also pretty simple – any of the premiums can make you cash, so just make sure you have one good cash cow, and then look to the secondary option as a crew trainer. Since crews can use premiums without needing to retrain, its a great way to boost your skill levels. On the recent 5x weekend, I had a retrained P-51A pilot. I got his 5x, then put him in my US premium for another 5x. Especially since premiums are considered elite, with no researchable components, and thus have the option of using the XP gained to be converted to free XP, or to double down on crew training xp. Essentially, in those premium victories, I was receiving far more than 5x because of this. In this line of thinking, you just need one good earner, and then one premium of any tier for each nation, so that you can double down on your crew training.

So which is it for me?

If its the first method, I can safely spend all the gold I have stockpiled right now. I’d buy every one of the Warplanes premiums, all of which I think are fun. That’s eight planes though, plus I’d buy probably two of the high tier tank premiums that are still on my list. That’s a lot of vehicles. Realistically I’d never have time to play them all, and it would just be a smorgasbord of one match here one match there depending on my whim. I’m not sure I could live down spending the money in that way though, as fun as it would be. It seems a bit too extravagant.

The second method would mean buying probably just 2-3 vehicles. And, by coincidence, probably the 203 vehicles I am least interested in overall out of the group. The truth is, I already have premium planes of the highest tier because of my tester status, and through some promotions, I have premium planes for every category, except German regular fighters (as opposed to heavy). The German premium fighter is, in my opinion, the weakest of the bunch, and not my favorite. The Me 209V was built as a speed racer, and while fast, its limited in every other aspect. I’d much prefer the old He 100 from testing days, though there has been no indication that it would be released at all, and its worrying that they had it tested and passed on it in favor of this new premium. In tanks I could not afford, despite my considerable gold amount, all the training tanks I would need to complete my roster. I’d have to settle in to my active lines and in doing so that cuts things back to the venerable German Lowe heavy tank. I like the Lowe, its not a bad premium, but it is, to me, not a lot of fun to drive.

You can see why I am having a hard time deciding here. I have ten more days to do my thinking, hopefully something will shake loose by then.

Time Capsule 2014

I really liked the format last year and enjoyed coming back to it. So the concept will go on for another year, but with a new name to better reflect what I’m looking to do.

The truth is, this post is a time capsule. I mark this place to show where I was at in my thoughts, hopes, dreams, desires, and questions at the beginning of the year. That is what is fun for me. So there are basically three sections below. The first deals with my hopes and desires for the coming year – what I want to accomplish or would like to see come to pass. The second is staking out, in the grand blogging tradition, what games I will return to to try again or just to enjoy again. And the third is my list of burning questions – my musings and ponderings about what 2014 might hold.

The Crypt of Civilization, the world’s most ambitious time capsule, and one of the inspirations of this post.

What I Am Looking Forward To

The Vought F7U Cutless. I’ve played around on the WoWp test server with enough of the high tier aircraft to know that I was made for this plane. Originally the fastest of the tier 10 jets, that has been eclipsed by the new British line. But, unlike its real world counterpart, this plane handles like a dream. I have led a two plane chase column from one end of a high tier map to the other without getting shot down, because of its incredible pitch and roll rates. It also has decent firepower and a great climb rate, making it the perfect ending to a line that already has those traits going for it. I’m finishing up the F4F Wildcat right now, and then its on to the Corsair for a couple of tiers, before transitiong to the F6U Pirate, the only hiccup in the line. It follows a bit too closely to its real world counterpart. And quite frankly, its an odd choice – the line would more logically go through the F2H Banshee, a production aircraft, rather than the Pirate.

In any case, this is probably my first planned foray up the tech tree in WoWp, along with the Messerschmitt line culminating in the severely OP Me 262 mark 3. Because you can’t ignore the OP stuff in the world of PvP. You could also include in this that I am overall looking forward to a growing player base for WoWp.

Elder Scrolls Mania. I got Skyrim for Christmas and have been enjoying it – except for the random murders of important townsfolk that I have no power to stop, which apparently happens at random. And I got to try my hand at the ESO Beta, and while its under NDA, I think it would be okay for me to tell you that I went from being “meh” on it to being very excited for it. I am not excited about a subscription fee, but I honestly don’t see that lasting more than about six months time. How about you?

Playing Old RPG Franchises. I picked up Wizardry 6-8 from Steam over the holidays. I was a Might and Magic fan growing up and just didn’t have the money to follow both series. So I’ve always wanted to go back and try it out, and that is exactly what I intend to do – at the bargain basement price of $2.75, which I could have afforded even back then, had they been on sale that low! Speaking of Might and Magic, UBI continues to develop MMX: Legacy, and I will continue to watch and wait eagerly, thought I have not been ready yet to drop the $30 they want for early access and testing on Steam. I may not be able to contain myself much longer though. Speaking of which, my other holiday Steam purchase was Conquest of Elysium 3, by the same people that created Dominions 3 and most recently just released Dominions 4. It takes more of an RPG flavor than the grand strategic scale of Dominions, but there is no denying the connections between the two. Speaking of which, you can now also get Dom 3 for a mere $20 on Steam. I absolutely guarantee that this game is worth its original asking price of 3x that amount. I can also include the Agarest series on here, as hopefully Ghostlight makes more of them available on Steam. The game got a terrible rap for confusing combat and its supposedly heavy fan service. So far I’ve seen less fan service than your typical Bong movie, and the combat is quite excellent – thought if you jumped the tutorial because the game looked a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics, I can imagine you got your butt handed to you more than once. The game looks the same but the system is very, very different.

I could have included this in my “Return To” section below, but I tend to think of that as more in the realm of MMO’s.

The Return of WoW. I am excited about the possibilities of the new expansion (especially the base/home), and the inclusion of a max level character. I have actually been playing around on my free WoW account some over the holidays. It seems strange to say it in some ways, but I firmly believe that WoW is a better game now than it was when I left it 5 years ago. At this point, unless ESO just absolutely grabs me by the head and won’t let go, I intend to spend a few months in Azeroth towards the end of the year (assuming that is inded when it drops).

Burning Questions for 2014

What Will Come of Wildstar? I’m not sure it can be said loudly or clearly enough, but Wildstar wants to be the WoW killer. From the art style to the considered goals, to the planning of races and classes, the goal can’t be seen as anything other than an attempt to invade the fertile subscription lands that WoW occupies. Maybe its just me, but when I hear ESO talk subs, I think its just a placeholder to recoup costs. When I hear Wildstar say it (perhaps because of the announcement of its version of Plex/Kronos), I think they intend to stick with it. I can’t help but think they will fail. I have no ill will to the game really, though I do think its a major step backwards to limit your race/class combos, so I’m not looking to be right here in the vindictive sense, but I just can’t imagine what it is about this game that will make it a lasting presence on the MMO landscape. On the other hand, I felt the same way about Guild Wars 2…

Will ArcheAge Be Arriving in 2014? Its been out for a year over in Korea. Its in testing with players over in RU as we speak. Yet we have nothing more than a basic placeholder site and zero information about release dates or just about anything else with regards to a timeline here. I submitted a question for the Game On Podcast (about the PR machine) and Victor Barreiro seems to think that Hartman was encouraging, but I was disappointed with the overall lack of response, not just on my question but on the game overall. One the one hand, the game is ready – just translation issues remain. On the other hand, we can’t give any further information or dates or even a range of dates. If we can’t give a range of dates even on a PR buildup, I have to think the game is really far off. Any yet I can’t imagine that if all that is remaining is the final stage of localization, that it would be on hold for another full year. The bottom line here is that this is my next big game that I have great hopes for, and the sooner it gets here, whether that be to fulfill my expectations or dash them, the better I will be.

How Will WarThunder’s Gound Game Hold Up Against World of Tanks? WarThunder’s vision is ambitious. Put planes and tanks together on the same battlefield. I can’t think that this will be easy to implement or balance, let along do those two things while making it fun to play. So I’m curious to see how it plays out. WarThunder and WoWp are different enough that they draw their own individual crowds, but there is something about the ground game that will be interesting to watch play out. Maybe just because Wargaming has more to lose than Gaijin does. Then again, WoT is the WoW of the military battleground world. Their position is going to be tough enough to assail without the added design complications that Gaijin is imposing on itself.

Return To…

I’ve pondered this one a lot over the past few weeks. Initial thoughts included Age of Conan, Dark Age of Camelot, or Neverwinter Nights. But NWN still doesn’t have a class that really drives me to want to play the game. Conan I got as far as downloaded and taking my old character out for a test drive, but an hour later I was done. So done. Dark Age is an old title, but with the coming of Camelot Unchained, I thought it might be fun to play for a bit and do a compare contrast as the year brings more information. Still, it is dated and we may still be a ways from Camelot Unchained. Plus, as a divided market now intends – it is still a subscription game, and that means there is a barrier to entry there that other options don’t have.

In the end, I thought about what I wanted out of the experience. I said to myself that these will be long term, but part time efforts. I have main, “every night” kind of games, but I want games I can “marathon” in – play one or two nights a week, draw the experience out for a year and really enjoy it and not feel like I have to log in every night to keep the world turning. With that in mind, I settled in on two:

EVE Online. On a whim, because I loved the idea and what was inside, and boosted by Wilhelm‘s glowing review of it, I placed the EVE Second Decade Collector’s Edition on my Christmas Wish List. I honestly didn’t think I would get it, but…what the hell, it was Christmas, right? Well my parents spoiled me, and I absolutely love it. The Rifter looks great on my desk, and I’m super excited about the board game, which looks like fun. And the soundtrack and history book are absolutely worth the price alone. And the game itself is perfect for the drop in/drop out mentality now that I think about it. I’ve always been desperate to fill time in EVE – but the long time EVE players like Kirith Kodachi and even Wilhelm, don’t seem to be people who play it every day. Maybe my pacing has just been off. If nothing else, I always enjoy just flying in space. While there is a subscription barrier here as well, but I think its worth it given my past experience with the game.

SWTOR. I have decided after long consideration to hit the reset button on SWTOR. I never did get past the starter planets on the side of the Republic. I would love to see the other half of the galaxy. And the idea of just following the storyline, and filling in the blanks with the minigame, ducking the sometimes irritating side missions – which also cuts down on the overly long leveling cycle, particularly towards the end. And, free to play, very good if I’m burning my two sub limit on ESO and EVE.

I don’t like that SWTOR under-reached for their Galactic Starfighter expansion, I think it was dumb and yet another let down, on top of being blatant plagiarism. But while I think that, I’m more interested in blogging about my experience in the game, than spending more time shredding them for the move. In other words, it sucks for the MMO world but it benefits me, so I’m gonna roll with it.

Does Winning Matter?

Warning: this is a long post. If you want the TL;DR version, skipped to the bolded text at the end.

So this isn’t one of my originally scheduled posts, but I have been pondering this for awhile, and something came up today that kind of tied it all together.

A player in the “ask a developer” thread for World of Tanks, asked it was really necessary in keeping count of statistics, to track player’s winrates. SerB, aka the head honcho/big cheese of WoT, had a response for him in his typical trolling fashion (h/t FTR):

A: “I will meditate on that… no, I don’t even know what to say, I have no words. Young man, understand that winrate is just the amount of your victories, divided by the amount of your battles in general and multiplied by 100. To remove this indicator is possible only if we reset the battle count to zero (and in your case, use the free time to train your mental abilities).”

This is not a shocking answer, given that SerB and WG staff in general have always been clear that they feel that overall win rate is the only real indicator of a player’s skill. The argument is that though you may encounter a bad team (ie, be surrounded by assholes), if you are good, your contributions will occasionally tip the scales in your team’s favor, and that over the course of thousands of battles, this means a better winrate.

Of course, there are problems with this, but still, its generally accepted to be one of the big indicators of skill. As I posted a few days ago, my winrate in Warplanes hovers around 63-64%, which is considered great, but not elite (its easier to “carry” a bad team in warplanes, and grouped players can have significant impact on an outcome). In tanks, my win rate is closing in on 53%, which is above good but not great.

But the funny thing is, in the PvP games I do play, win rate is really only a big deal in the WG titles. In Battlefield, its more about your Kill/Death ratio. While Win/Loss is tracked, its not talked about a lot. Meanwhile, whether through the fact that they are a floundering title that appears to have no idea what they are doing, or because they are just on some anti-stat crusade, Mechwarrior Online doesn’t bother charting any of your stats. (The really skill-intensive clans have to play some matches with applicants and observe them in combat – which probably isn’t a bad thing). EVE Online seems to be about how many kill mails you get on, though there is some secondary thought to how many ships/pods you lose (and how you lose them).

So I wonder about getting hung up on win rate. I certainly do. I have been very careful about how and when I play and who I play with and what planes I play with. I want to maintain that win rate (and in the case of tanks, grow it). I get grumpy if I log off at night and I’ve lost more than I’ve won.

As with all things in life, I think balance is the key. So I’ve been spending some nights away from my PvP endeavors, enjoying some other ventures. TERA is still fun, and I’ve been working through a couple of nostalgia titles in my Steam library. There has to be a place in there some where that winning feels good but losing doesn’t feel bad. Where you can play a game for the fun of the game and not be constantly setting goals and achievements for yourself.

And here comes the TL;DR of it all: I really don’t think I’ve found that in an online game yet. Everything is about leveling up, or winning, or gathering, or achieving. In other words – its all about progress. And in some ways, I kinda find that sad.

The closest I can come to finding this has, I think, been in Star Trek Online. I got on last week to play the Season 8 Featured Episode, originally for the cool ship that came with it. But I got sucked in by the storytelling and really had a good time. I could only do that though, because I was at level cap. In fact, I made a point of capping both my KDF and STF characters and only now am I going back and doing the storyline missions. I’m not worried about if my gear is good enough, or if I have the right ship, and the difficulty that scales to your level is just enough to make it interesting.

What if there were an MMO that was not about progress or gear. Just about making the character you wanted and taking them on adventures. Maybe one day, we can hope, winning won’t matter in some games, some of the time. That would be enough for me. Because the rest of the time, in planes and tanks and on battlefields…you’re going down.

There’s a First Time For Everything

So…I got kicked out of my guild last week.

Yeah, I know, not what you would expect from this guy. And I hadn’t intended to say anything about it, but, after reading Rowan’s piece on Guild Drama, and the original posts behind it, most poignantly, A Resolution, I decided I would throw my voice in as well, because it resonated with my own story. (If you want the TL;DR, you can skip to the last three paragraphs, if you want the whole story: read on.)

In my case, I got thrown out for something I have gotten in trouble with before in real life. People who know me IRL know that, personality-wise, I am that little kid in the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. I’m the one that says something when nobody else will, and the one who is not fooled by hand-waving, and is genuinely perplexed at people’s ability to lie to themselves.

A friend of mine in the Clan (as we call them in Tanks) was set to be an FC – a field commander, the one who directs the strategy of a match in Clan Wars – the World of Tanks equivalent of raiding I suppose – an end game activity with high stakes. And, in a surprising twist, the commander (“guild leader”) went ape-shit on Teamspeak when he found out – with my friend in the same room. He told him to his face that there was no way in hell he would let him lead such a crucial battle (…it was just another battle), and that he was bad at tanks and didn’t need to be involved in Clan Wars at all. A surprising statement given that my friends stats are light years beyond where the commander’s stats are. It was unexpected, painful (for all of us), and more than a little embarrassing. My friend, a bit blindsided and more than pissed, sent a PM the next day asking for an apology.

And was kicked out of the clan.

Now…it happened so fast, and so much out of the public eye, that for most of the guild, they went to bed wondering why my buddy was getting yelled at and woke up to him having been booted out. Questions were asked, in private. But rather than answer them in private, the commander, perhaps feeling the pressure, started a public forum post. Several of us commented that this wasn’t a good idea, and at least one person who so commented had their post erased by him. And three of us were threatened with boots for questioning him. And then, the entire thread went missing.

Which only kicked up more dust.

So, the next day, another thread, again public, only this time…with a garnish of lies. My buddy had been a problem for weeks, FC’s didn’t want him on their team, and although the boot process happened fast, all guild protocols had been included and both deputy commanders had signed off on the decision to boot him.

So..remember, I’m the little boy, right? So I told my commander that since he was desperate to have this conversation in public, so be it. And then I went on to call him a liar and call for him to step down. And he basically said “prove it.” So I did.

See, I had a copy of the PM’s that had been sent. And I posted them. And then…poof, posts started disappearing again. Funny how that happens. Eventually he posted again that either we needed to get in line or else. I got a PM from one of the two deputy commanders with the same message.

So I explained to the deputy commander (again) that our commander had lied and booted someone for the sole reason that he didn’t like him, and that this was unacceptable by guild standards. I presented, again, the proof. The deputy commander admitted that while he had known nothing of it, an FC and the other deputy commander did. At which point I told him that I’d already spoken with the FC in question and that he admitted that he had never spoken with my buddy about being a problem and never asked for him to be kicked. And then I told him that if it really was that big a deal to support the commander – no matter what – then fine, I would shut up and play. After all, we’d switched commanders twice in six months, I’m sure eventually things would change. The other deputy commander remained (strangely) silent throughout this entire venture.

And when I went to log in that night (I sent the last PM earlier in the day), I was no longer in the clan. Actually, more than that, I was permabanned from the clan forums and website. That they keep open for everyone – including and most especially former members. Nobody has ever been banned from there, even people who regularly come in to the public portion of the forums and do nothing but make trouble and insult the clan.

But me? I get banned and kicked. For telling the truth I guess. On top of that, as an unrelated issue – I had been removed from my guild diplomat position a week earlier – and nobody told me. And right up until the day I got booted, nobody could tell me why or who had done it!


Anyway, I tell you this story to recommend to you Sheep’s five priniciples for handling guilds better. Because all four of them come directly into play in my own situation. The (1) overuse of middlemanagement (the clan has nearly a dozen different commanders and less than one hundred members) meant that the commander could play “he said, she said” and be indignant behind a smoke screen long enough to get away with causing drama and making a power play. I can only assume that there was a (2) clique at play, because I can’t fathom why things unfolded the way they did unless some people held their friends above the good of the group. Secrecy (3) was clearly a problem here since apparently my buddy was on thin ice and never knew it. At least, according to them. In reality secrecy is still a problem because decisions were made behind closed doors and without the proper checks and balances being followed, and when the fail was discovered, the decided course of action was to cover it up rather than fix it.

And finally, (4) and (5) go hand in hand. My former clan’s tagline is now a tremendous joke: “Securing victory is our goal: doing so with respectful fun is the method.” It prides itself on allowing “no asshats” and actively screening applicants to keep out people who are dirty, underhanded, trollish, or…well, asshats. And yet, I discovered in short ordere that those traits are not only allowed in the guild – they are in control of it. The culture of the clan does not match the recruiting line, and some people are more valuable than others based on their “longevity.”

I have written on this same topic before, when I left my first EVE corporation – and it boils down to this: do what you say you are going to do. And if you make a mistake and fail in that, do whatever it takes to make it right. Because fixing it will always take less time, less energy, and cause less drama and problems then trying to cover it up. Whether you think so or not. Otherwise you will end up like my former clan – a revolving door with a 15% average monthly dropout rate – a stat I wish I had uncovered before I had joined.

One of my Favorite Tanks Gets An Upgrade!

Silent Stalker announced on his FTR blog this morning the news that Wargaming has seen fit to grant a remodel to one of the oldest and rarest tanks in the game, the elusive Panzer V/IV. There are few of these puppies around on the US server. They were given as a “thank you” to early Alpha testers (those are unique in having a Greek alpha on the front hull), and were available as part of the “medium” preorder package.

As you can see, the model was a kitbash of two existing tanks already in the game – the Panther hull mated with the Mark IV turret. It was a cheap modelling bit for Wargaming, but a real tank. Only one was produced, as a command tank, and in real life the turret could not turn since it was bolted in place (the turret rings sizes did not match). In game, it turns just fine, thankfully, since its already a bit underpowered.

As it turns out, while its rare here, it shows up in the shop from time to time in EU and in RU. And it was always known that the model was not historically correct. As rare a bird as it was in real life, there are actually three surviving pictures of it!

As you can see, the hull is a little different (the bow MG is of the letterbox variety, not ball mount) with side skirts added, and the turret also has the armor skirts common to the Mark IV. While this was acknowledged, nobody ever thought Wargaming would spend the time and money remodeling a tank that few people had and few people seemed to want.

Until today. It appeard in the RU gift shop with a new artists rendition that matched the historical model. And when questioned, RU dev Evilly revealed that it had new artwork “because the model will soon be changed into that you can see on the picture 🙂 Looks nice, no?”

Needless to say, I’m quite excited. Though not an overpower tank, it is fun to play and rare on the battlefield, so I invariably run it from time to time. And these days, with premium shells able to be bought for credits, this has offset some of its handicap (weak gun for its tier) – particularly for people like me that run it not because it is a premium tank but because they enjoy playing it. I can shoot gold and still break even for the most part.

Anyway, kudos to Wargaming for spending some time and money just for the sake of historical accuracy and as a continued thank you to those of us that were there in the beginning. They have had their blips, but every now and then they go and do something like this that gives you a warm fuzzy.

The Garage Overfloweth

I breathed a sigh of relief and joy last night when I crossed yet another item off the list of goals for this year – and gave myself some fun to look forward to. It’s time to say goodbye to the ST-I and hello to the IS-4.


Yes, ST-I. Apparently not the ST-1, as I assumed when I first bought it. The tank has been at times a grindfest, and its taken me a lot longer than I thought to get through it. But then I kept getting distracted by new shinies. The truth is that this tank was everything it was advertised to be. Really tough armor that bounces a lot of shots, an excellent gun, and decent (at least among the heavies) mobility. I think I am going to sell the M103 instead and hang on to it, though the real problem there is that I’m already hurting for Russian heavy crews. But then, that’s why I have The Beast, to train new heavy crews.

The question is where to run from here. The general consensus among the players I know is that the optimal play is to have three tanks in rotation. And generally, for me, one of those is going to be a premium tank because I’m constantly after credits for this or that. One of the reasons this line too so long is that I went a little nuts and was back to, at one time, working on six lines. I’ve cut that down again. Right now the primary focus is on the new tier 10 medium Object 140. I hadn’t intended to, but its a nice twin to the awesome T-62A, which I happen to also love. And since it comes from the existing T-54, which I already had elited, it was just a matter of the final grind. So I’ve already been working on it a bit and am about %15 done. So I have room for one other line to do serious work on. I have three choices basically.

1) I can continue with the stated goals for the year and finish out the IS-7 line. I need about 171k to unlock it, and the IS-8 is already in its top configuration, so its fairly smooth sailing – outside of the fact that the IS-8 is fairly weak for its tier.

2) I can instead pay out some free XP for modules and begin the E-75 grind to the E-100. This has become a solid choice for Clan Wars and the E-75/German Heavy line is right up my alley anyway. The downside is burning free XP for the turret, which is pretty much a necessity. The good news is that with the 8.8 changes, the extra top engine is gone and the mobility increased at the same time, so this will be a fun grind. But it will be much longer – more than 300k when you take into account the top guns for the E-75 and the E-100.

3) It occurs to me that I’m stocking a lot of heavies in my garage – when my specialty, my bread and butter, my best tanks – are mediums. And my brother will soon begin his game again, where he is working on some mediums. So I could continue the trek in the Chinese or US medium line, with an eye towards finishing one or both. The bonus is that my rotation won’t have to involve a change in playstyle since my other main grind will also be a medium. Catching up to my brother’s tier 7 Russian medium shouldn’t be too hard (75k or so), or I can pop into the US line, knowing that I will need to drop some free XP and/or cash to make the M46 Patton grind bearable. The downside of this is pretty easy – the top tier Chinese and US medium tanks are not really CW tanks. So I’m not benefiting the clan any. On the other hand, getting the Object 140 squared away is a big clan asset. So it all evens out.

Any of these are good options really. Right now I’m leaning more towards three, but I’m sure I will bounce around a couple of days before settling on something.

And of course, I will need to take a match off every now and then to drive my shiny new IS-4…