Time Capsule 2015

So for those that haven’t read one of my previous capsules, or my opening thereof, here’s how this works. I record some of the things I’m looking forward to, some of my burning questions for the year ahead, and record my biggest nostalgia impulses. And then a year later, I see how they turned out. (Hint: sometimes not as great as I thought, sometimes, even better).

So here we go:

What I’m looking forward to in 2015

As others have pointed out, this is a down year for MMO’s. There are no real major launches that we know of, and nothing waiting on the back burner to amp up. So most of my anticipation is locked into games I’m playing in the here and now (and that’s not a bad thing!)

Maxing Out Marvel Heroes Online

I started last year with just a free hero (Hawkeye) and some time to kill, but the game was so good I put in enough quarters to buy out my two favorite Marvel characters: Moon Knight and Taskmaster. Moonie is…well, he’s a complicated character and its hard to get a good build on him. Taskmaster on the other hand, is a world of fun. I added Rogue over Christmas through the Steam sale. She is the quintessential utility character, something I thrive on. So I’d really like to get those guys maxed out, or at least to where I have all their fun abilities, including ultimates, unlocked.

Grats to Gazillion on raking in that Game of the Year award too. And they deserve it. All the other action RPG type games are built on PvP – but not this one. This one is built firmly on PvE, and that is what has made it such a nice secondary game for me. Drop in, drop an elbow on several hundred henchmen, and drop back out. Good times folks, good times.

Unleash the Tiger

The inscription in Russian reads:  "Pic Unrelated"
The inscription in Russian reads: “Pic Unrelated”

One of the seminal moments of the World of Tanks beta for me was, as week before the wipe and launch, unlocking the Tiger tank. My boyhood dream, come to life in a way that had never, in my opinion, been done right before. And then War Thunder comes along, and, in my opinion, they do it even better than WoT did. And I’m sitting 61,000 RP from unlocking that steal beast in WT. Well, maybe a little more than that, as I’ve elected to beef up my AA lineup a bit first. So call it 85k or so. Shouldn’t be too long, but unlocking it is not what I’m looking forward to – playing with it is. In WoT the Tiger was always a mediocre tank – the way they rank it, it falls into battles where its already poor mobility was combined with a new weakness – armor that couldn’t stop anything. It was….disappointing. I’m curious to see how it fares in WT. Will it live up to the image cast by my younger self, watching Kelly’s Heroes and drooling longingly?

More Jet Combat In World of Warplanes

I know that sounds weird, but, now that I have a couple of jets in my inventory, I’m really starting to like the way the game plays out around them. In War Thunder, at those levels, it appears a one second burst can shatter you jet beyond repair, but the mechanics in WoWp are more forgiving, and combined with the greater difficulty in maneuvering at those speeds…well, its a fun and fast paced challenge. I never thought I would be in that place, a year ago, I’d have said to take jets out all together. But I really do think the game is set up to handle them well, maybe even better than it handles the lower tier prop battles, which is already very good at building high paced furballs.

My Burning Questions For 2015

Speaking of WoWp…

Where will things stand a year from now? Will the game be improved, with greater numbers of players, or will it have dwindled south? Will it even still be around? Already some NA players have moved to the RU server, trading a rough delay for the ability to have a large population present. For me, my heartache would be in the loss of the game I love, but not in money invested. Warships will be coming soon and I know I will be invested in that as well, so any gold I have will find a happy new home there. But I genuinely love WoWp, and the thought of it disappearing on me…well, it would be a hard blow to take.

What will Elder Schools Unlimited Actually Look Like?

Screenshot_20150115_204737

They say that nothing will be restricted, but I’m calling baloney right now. XP gain will be choked back, without a doubt. Which means if my brother and I want to keep moving at the comfortable pace we are living at right now, we are going to have to stay subbed. Which means there are no real benefits for me to derive from the game. Yes, I know, the Crown Shoppe, or whatever they will call it, but…unless they are also lying about restrictions in the realms of fashion – I already change outfits and colors almost nightly – there is nothing more I could want to buy from the shop in terms of cosmetics. But if they are lying about that too, and the crafting content will also be restricted….well, then, again, I’m not better off than when I started. Honestly, it doesn’t really hurt my status quo, so there is nothing for me to be mad about. But as someone who is already loyally subbed, I stand to gain nothing in the switch it seems.

What MMO Closures will 2015 Bring Us?

It was this time last year when word came that Vanguard would be closed down for good….err “sunsetting” as they euphemize it. That made it the fifth MMO I’ve played to shutter its doors (EQOA, Shadowbane, CoX, SWG are the other four). So the thought is in my head as I write this: who is going down this year? Will it be the very original, but long suffering Pirates of the Burning Sea? They admit this is going to be a tenuous year for them revenue-wise in a recent letter, but if they can get in place the things they need, they can probably hold on for awhile longer. Sony has proven itself the harbinger of doom when it comes to closures in the last year – is there something else on their list to axe? Dragon’s Prophet maybe? Do any of the really old school games that have clung to life face an end in the next year? Dark Age of Camelot? Asheron’s Call?

Or…will this be a closure free year, which will seem to be, after the last couple of years, a rarity?

Where Will I Return To In 2015

Ah, the nostalgia lanes. Last year I enjoyed trips into retro-RPG lands. What about this year?

ArchAge Online

Given how passionate I was about this game early on…should I go back and try to rekindle some of that interest now? I mean, it is free to play, so if it doesn’t work out, no big deal. And I doubt I will ever get through enough of the content that PvP will be an issue. And in some sense, it woudn’t be a return since I never made it that far on the RU server. Still, an interesting possibility.

Dominions 4

I would love to do a nice, long (maybe playing just once a week) playthrough of a Dominions game and write up a narrative of the action. It would function in some ways like Syps Nostalgia Lane, though I really only have an interest in doing it for this game, which it would work well on I think. His Master of Orion playthrough in that format was a great read and a lot of fun.

Or….

Or will something not here jump up and catch my fancy, something like the recently resurfaced Uncharted Waters Online….

I must have ships on the brain. Anyway, here’s to 2015. May it surprise us in a good way.

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.

MM2

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.

    SWTOR

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!)

Coming Up For Air

So I’ve spent the last 7 weeks or so deep in the clutches of World of Warplanes. I’ve surpassed the 4,000 battle mark now, and have every line in the game at tier 6 or above (two of them at tier 8 being the highest). But all that was just grinding for a couple of fairly large carrots:

reward planes

The early Mk1 version of the Gloster Meteor (t7 premium) and the Hawker Hurricane IID (t5 premium). I don’t know if we are just on a British roll or what over at the developer studios, but there they are. The Meteor was the reward for a very long and heavy August grind, the Hurricane was the September reward, and while it was a little easier (finished in 3 weeks instead of 4), outside of a few ESO sessions with my brother, that’s been about all I’ve done with my now limited game time.

In the middle of all that, the newest update dropped. With it came the bad (joystick control went through a pretty thorough shift, and many players gave up rather than recalibrate their controls), the ugly (lots of people whined about the changes to ground targets and game balance, though they were sorely needed), and the good. The good was mainly in the form of an amazingly unheralded change to a single tier spread in matchmaker. No more t4’s against t6’s or t6 prop planes against t8 jets. And yet, despite that being the most requested feature, the update caused major uproar.

The good news is that a bunch of new players apparently have found the game more palatable now, and the population, while still fairly low overall, has stabilized. Oh, and the other good thing? This:

shot_004

While its a Chinese version of the Japaenese army air corp plane, it was a welcome addition and flies quite well. Its become one of my favorite planes.

TL;DR – I’m taking a little break. I’m fairly burned out, and so I’m spending my gaming time for the next couple of weeks on ESO (which has really grabbed me) and on WarThunder’s ground forces, which I continue to enjoy. While it has a few bugs in it still, the game is gorgeous and its hard not to get swept up in the atmosphere of the game and Gaijin’s obvious passion for the content.

shot 2014.08.01 22.15.44

Oh and, hopefully, that means more posting now too.

Hanger Update

So, things have been progressing quite smoothly in World of Warplanes. I still have a spot in the Hall of Fame, though its about 50 spots removed from my peak of 140 or so. But that’s not because my stats have dipped, but rather because population has increased and some new good pilots have joined, so I am happy about that. Even playing as much as I do, I have not made my first tier 10 yet, because I tend to jump around (yes, altitis exists in MOBA as well!).

So, here is my current top tier warbird:

So new it hasn't left the hanger yet.
So new it hasn’t left the hanger yet.

And nipping on its heals, the rest of my leveling garage is almost all one tier behind:

Some of these are bought but untouched...
Some of these are bought but untouched…

And a couple of them are two tiers behind:

But I love them just as much.
But I love them just as much.

And that is every line in the game, save for three:

a) The only Ground Attack line (I enjoy the gameplay, but the line doesn’t interest me)

b) The partial Russian “Derp” line (Yak’s with big cannons, currently at tier 5)

c) And two heavy lines: The Brits (tier 4) and the Americans (tier 6).

Next garage sale I will fix some of that by buying four slots – two for the missing heavy fighter lines, one for the only premium I don’t own yet (IL-2(mod)), and one just in case.

And as for stats, well, this time around I’m a tenth of a point lower in both Win Rate (62.02%) and Kill/Death ratio (2.78) than I was before, but I have two thousand more battles under my belt (3,204), a tenth of those at tier 7, where things get dicey without a flight. And my survival rate has staid the same (43%). The crazy thing? I have less than half as many battles as I have in tanks and more than four times the number of Hero Medals (Top Gun/Ace).

Up next? Well, I need to drive onward to tier 10 (466,300 XP to go!) and pressure is mounting for me to join a Clan. Good pilots are still hard to come by, and I’m getting some invites to fly with the best. As much as I like my independence, it might be time to settle down.

Officially HoF Material

Well, I crossed the 1000 battle mark in Warplanes last night, and so now its official. I am a Hall of Fame caliber player.

hall of fame

Of course, there is no guarantee I will stay there, as I continue to progress up the tiers, and as the player base gets larger and larger. And there are many categories to be conquered beyond Win Rate. But its the only one of two stats in the overall category that it is possible to make without a significantly larger number of battles (the other is Average Experience, which is not dependent on battles but is dependent on tier – high tiers make more base XP). Mostly its just a fun feather in my cap. I have not done this well in a PvP game since Star Wars Battlefront II, where I cracked the top 900 on Xbox Live – not as high a ranking, but against a significantly larger player base!

Also this week, I have been able to knock down three of the top 100 pilots. They are really, really good, and that is not guarantee I will beat them again the next time we face off, but it does let me know I have a fighting chance against anyone I meet in this game.

And because of that, I feel like I can take a breath now. I have spent the last month anxious to prove myself and trying to train myself to be as sharp as possible in every battle. And don’t get me wrong – that was fun for me! But now I think it will be fun to unbutton a little, try some new things, and see what the new update brings (1.2, rumored to be along shortly).

sshot_024

Time Capsule:

Highest Tier: 6
Favorite at that Tier: P-51A Mustang
Favorite Premium: Type 224 (tier 3)
Plane Most Excited About Getting Next: Yak-1M
Current KDR: 2.89
Current SR: 43%

If you want to join me in the friendly skies, I have codes for you to start off with something other than empty coffers, and I’m more than happy to give you a flight lesson for free to go along with it. The game needs more players, stat, and who knows – the next Hall of Famer could be you.

Well I Would Fight 500 Times…

With apologies to The Proclaimers, I have hit the 500 mark in World of Warplanes. Somehow, despite tiering up and an increasingly competitive player base, I’ve clung to a 60% win rate.

wowp 500

If I keep that win rate intact for the next 500 battles (no easy feat), then that will put me in the top 150 or so players. At least in win rate – and there are plenty of other ways to measure a players skill. While I Ace fairly regularly, I have yet to pull down my first Gurovets model (9+) kills.

To celebrate, and since last night was the last night of the grand sale, I splurged and bought 3 new premiums. I didn’t buy based on what I needed, just on what I thought would be fun to play, and so far, I am pleased with my decision.

sshot_018

That is my XF4U-1, the Corsair prototype. While I already had two tier 5 American premiums, neither of them really fit my style, and I absolutely love my Corsair. Being able to play it on tier 5 rather than the dicey (these days anyway, my real Corsair is currently 0 for 6) tier 6, is magnificent. I just love flying it.

And since that is really my style of play, I could not resist picking up its little brother, the Wildcat prototype, the XF4F-3. At tier 4, it is a dynamic multi-role fighter that I do well with.

And last but not least:

The Bf. 110 C-6. That’s not actually mine though, haven’t screenshotted mine yet. That underslung cannon is a 30mm, and it hits hard at tier 4 where this plane can be found at. I have enjoyed my alpha-tester Me. 210, and this was again a case of buying something that I enjoyed playing, despite having similar options elsewhere.

I did want to get a ground attack aircraft too – while I don’t want to go up the Russian line really, it is a fun style to play and a nice change of pace. But the bottom line is the premium planes aren’t any more inticing than those on the line – I’d rather save my gold and wait until a different ground attack line comes out (hopefully soon).

The same was true with passing on the only German light fighter premium – the Me. 209V just does not fit my style, and I would have a hard time flying it to any real affect. So for the time being, despite wanting a premium for training the pilot on one of my two main lines, I will do without.

But I ramble…

If you haven’t had a chance to try the game, I recommend it. While it is a WG title, it does have a very different (and much less frustrating) feel to it than World of Tanks. Its worth playing a dozen or two battles to see for yourself.

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.

shot_069

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.

sshot_005

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.

Eurogamer Embroiled In Another Review Controversy

Speaking of winning, here is another scandal right up there with the Darkfall review from ages ago.

Eurogamer sent in Paul Dean to play World of Warplanes and write a review. He gave it a 6/10. He said the game lacked strategy and depth. How much time to you think he spent in the game? 10 hours? 20 hours?

Well, here is his profile on the EU website, taken from the screenshots in the review. As you can see, the account was a week old as of the writing of the review. But the number of battles…

eurogamer fail

Warplanes FAQ says the average battle lasts 5-7 minutes, and that’s about right. So our stellar reviewer played the game for somewhere between 3.5 and 5 hours total. About the same amount of time Adventurine claimed was spent on the Darkfall review back in the day. And there, the reviewer swore he played the game for at least 9 hours. Which would be only be possible here if every game Dean played lasted 12.5 minutes. Yeah, right.

And that’s not even touching the fact that Dean’s stats are well below average – so bad he doesn’t even register in the game’s rankings. Beyond that are some suspect moments from the pictures themselves. One of them shows Dean using his Bf 109B, a high altitude plane, trying to attack a low altitude Japanese fighter, at a mere 300 meters off the deck. Even worse, the screenshot implies that he has killed the fighter, when the game stats on the sidebar make it clear that someone else killed the plane and he just took a screenshot of the explosion!

So we have a bad player, that did not follow even basic strategy that the game itself provides to you in the UI, and who played the game for what can only be considered the equivalent of one or two evenings, has impacted the games intended audience in a significant way.

Any bets on whether or not Wargaming will be responding to this the way Adventurine did?