The Bridge is Getting Crowded

Okay, not so much like that.    More like this:


As you can see, I have something of a plethora of bridge officer candidates.  What can I say, I have have a hard time saying “no” to virtual applicants.


I could sell off the extra ones – but they are worth so little, and there are so many of them on the exchange, I’m not sure its worth the time it would take to list them.  But then again, inventory space is always at a premium for a pack rat like myself!


The other option is, of course, upgrades.  Because the officers are so cheap, laying ahold of one to train the “rare” mark II or III version of a skill is relatively simple.  Not to mention that if you have a buddy who can train that skill as a player character, they can train the bridge officer and then trade them right back to you!  No, the real reason to upgrade is the passive attributes, which are greater at each level.


Even then – I’m not sold.   After all, for the best efficiency, you need an entirely Saurian/Borg/Human bridge crew (only these three races grant passive bonuses to space combat), and a ground crew that is all but those three races – usually with nothing but Betazoid Science officers.  And I’m just not into that.  Not only am I a big fan of Jacques Ellul (who famously noted that Efficiency is currently humanity’s true god), but I’m a roleplayer.  I’m not here for the stats, people.


Long story short though, it is pretty sad.   Here is what I currently have in my slots vs. what is available…



1 x Purple, 1 x Green, 1 x White     vs.     5 x Blue


1 x Blue, 1 x White     vs.     2 x Purple, 5 x Blue


1 x Purple, 1 x Green, 1 x White     vs.     2 x Purple, 7 x Blue

Given that without spending Zen, you get a standard of 10 officers, with the ability to purchase new slots at $1.25 a pop, up to maximum of 54, according to the wiki.    Which I’m not keen on doing.


So, the TL:DR of all this is simple.   I have to be willing to say goodbye to some old friends if I want to upgrade.  As a roleplayer, and a pack rat, that’s a double whammy.   How do I give up the science officer I started with 45 levels ago, who has been with me through thick and thin and still functions just fine!


I probably need to just put my big boy pants on and fire some peeps.   Because I’m betting other players don’t have this issues like this…


Nor, I’m betting, did Captain Picard.

…Of Trolls and Tanks

If I had to name the absolute worst thing about World of Tanks, it wouldn’t be the glitches, or the occasionally horrific coding that causes insta-crashes, or imbalances in tanks or matchmaker…it would be the players themselves.


Rarely does a match go by without someone whining, complaining, trolling, or just generally angsting over the gameplay of their teamates.   I used to chart some of that stuff – by my meager research, if your team can’t make it out of the starting circle without a collision, your changes of winning drop significantly, for example.  And I am by no means exempt.  I’m just as bad as everyone else about calling people at, yelling at perceived failures in tactics and strategy.  And there are two sides to every story, but a lot of the chatter is over the top, Barrens-style CAPS LOCK madness.


barrens chat

barrens chat 2

barrens chat 3

barrens chat 4


On the one hand, much of what is said in anger is gospel truth.  Lots of times a team loses because players don’t know the map, don’t look at the map, don’t support their teammates, don’t have a damn clue how to play their tank, or are apparently controlled by small children sitting in their parents laps.  (Seriously, I had a match last night with a tank on our team that had done damage, and moved, but then halfway through the match just drove in circles bumping into things…I have no explanation for that other than daddy let little Timmy drive for a bit).


I could list a ton of examples.  I get frustrated when I see players with “derp guns” (howitzers) try to snipe from long range – those guns are so inaccurate that they wont hit anything beyond 100m except with a liberal dose of luck.  I feel the need to bang my head on my desk when lemmings mode kicks in and fifteen tanks recreated the classic football play “student body right.”  And I would like to make it through at least one match without somebody in a tier 4 light tank whining about matchmaker.  Or a tier four medium tank paired with a tier four artillery baffled at why they are surrounded by tier 8 tanks in their match.   And I yell, and kick, and scream, and call names, and report people, and (probably) get reported myself on a semi-regular basis.  Most of these are self inflicted wounds by players who refuse to learn the game or listen to experienced teammates, and they cost me time and money.  So…yeah, I get angsty.


Much of that angst is due to the mechanics around credit income – end game players rarely make money on their matches.  The most profitable tier vehicles to run are actually 4-6.   I had one match recently in my T-30 (tier 9 tank destroyer) where I lost nearly 30,000 credits.  As a result, I dip back down into lower tiers to replenish my cash fund and continue my grind up.   This is great in that it keeps the battles flowing and makes sure that new players always have matches to play.  But the unspoken downside is that you can have a player with 20,000 matches under their belt on a team where the average number of battles played could be as little as 750.   And let me tell you, at nearly 5,000 matches, those are painful for me…I can’t imagine what they are like to someone who has seen that map battle unfold four times as much as me.


More than general experience, there is also the problem of experience with the vehicles themselves.  I am firmly of the belief that you need at least 100 battles in a given vehicle before you know how best to play it.  For one thing, there is upgrading modules, and for another, ever tank – even moving within the same line and nation, will play differently.    For example, if you’ve spent the last 100 battles in the T-28, you were playing with the 57mm Zis-4 gun.  Its one of the most accurate in the game, with a rating of .34 (this is related to the size of the targeting circle – so smaller is better), and with a full crew, you are getting off 26 shots a minute!  And then you move to the KV – congrats, now you are using the 76mm Zis-5.  It should be a better gun right?  No, actually, it shoots slower, penetrates less, and is one of the worst guns in the game for accuracy  at .46.    Meaning your targeting circle is now 35% larger than you are used to, and your gun takes 72% longer to reload.   That takes some adjusting.



That doesn’t mean that people yelling at you, even me, are right.  And in fact, they are often just as bad as you.  The thing that helped me curb my instinct to yell, and that has given me a great deal of insight into this is actually the controversial XVM mod.    At its basic level XVM will show you how many battles each player has had, their win %, and their efficiency score – a player generated algorithm that gives a pretty good picture of a players general skill level.  Its not perfect – the parameters slight arty players for example, but its a generally agreed upon standard at this point.  (If you’re curious, you can check your own score here.)   The controversial part is really a specific add on that purports to calculate your teams odds of winning the battle, based on the skill levels and experience of the players present.   I don’t use that part, because my college psych prof did her doctoral work in self-fulfilling prophecies.  I recommend that you shouldn’t use that add on either.


Worst > red > orange > yellow > green > blue > purple > Best
Worst > red > orange > yellow > green > blue > purple > Best


The basic XVM mod itself though is what has made me a better teammate – and not through gameplay.   Often times I go to yell at a player and realize they have less than a thousand battles under their belt.  They are still learning maps and trying to figure out what playstyles fit and don’t fit.  They may even still be learning basic mechanics and tactics, and not know how some things work.  And I bite my tongue.  Even players with several thousand battles are still learning – like myself.   I was in a match with a player in a tier 9 tank destroyer – you would assume that he was a good, veteran player.  But he used premium and it was his first and only line of tanks – he had only two thousand battles.  And when I chatted gently with him, he admitted he had less than ten matches in his newest tank.  How can I yell at that person?   He probably knows very little of how arty works, and is probably getting used to being the big dog at the top of the match list.


Its also made me realize that there are some games that are forgone conclusions.   It is entirely possible to have a half dozen new players or bad players on your team, and a half dozen players in the top 0.2% (yes, zero point two percent) of the efficiency ratings on the other team.  So I don’t whine about bad tactics or chide my team mates at all – we will probably lose no matter what they do!


Note the number of purple players (top .02%) and also note the poor player with 0k battles on our team...
Note the number of purple players (top 0.2%) they have and also note the poor players with 0k and 1k battles on our team…


That doesn’t mean I don’t still lose my temper.  There are players with those 20k battles whose efficiency score is lower than that of some of the very newest players.  And players that goof off – I had a match with a platoon of three that were playing bumper cars in the starting area and shooting each other – meaning the match was really a 15 vs 12 proposition.   But for the most part, my patience has been extended, my diatribes shortened, my yelling toned way down.   I do love the game and I love when new players come in and get to experience it.  If I’m one less guy yelling at them, maybe that helps them stick around a little longer to learn a little more, and that will be good for the whole playerbase.


I still bang my head on my desk sometimes though.  That doesn’t hurt anyone but me, but sometimes it does, paradoxically, make me feel better.

Nefarious Payment Schemes

There has been much angst recently over what we might can call “Lockbox Syndrome” among F2P titles lately.   Everquest II has jumped on the bandwagon.  There are clearly moral, if not legal, evils at work in the Syndrome.  And unless the sample size for the stats wasn’t big enough, the investment cost for the end game prize in such a scheme is fairly daunting.  I don’t disagree with any of that.  I’m not a fan of lockboxes or prize wheels or anything else that takes me back to that horrific childhood moment at Showbiz Pizza or the local arcade where I came flush from victory at the SkeeBall lanes to the prize counter…only to realize that my cash and hard work had combined to buy me a few plastic army men.
7000 tickets? Yeah, you can get any thing from those first 3 boxes on the top left.

But there is a scheme that is even more nefarious than that.  Even worse, its used not just by Free To Play games, but full bore Subscription games too.

It requires deep investment by the players.  So deep that it can often lead to those life problems that have been tied time and again to gambling, including throwing around that “A” word – addiction.

It is random, and sometimes you get nothing out of it.  You can save up your investment and go all in if you want to, but even volume investments may not net you any results.  That end game prize will continue to elude you.

Likewise, it is in the best interest of an MMO to have this scheme in place, because it nets them money and subscriptions.  Yep, that’s right, when the game is working off a subscription model, players have no way to say no to this scheme.  It is built into the game, and they are being charged for it whether they intend to participate or not. It takes chunks of developer time and energy in updates, and is a money generating hamster wheel.

Even worse, players that do not want to participate will be at a disadvantage in their stats and ability to engage in some of the games activities!  Its the most disgusting form of “Pay to Win” around, but nobody to date has had the guts to blow the whistle on it.

Well I do.  So lets just get it out in the open:  where is the angst and rage and protest around hardcore endgame raiding?  You know, the kind that requires hours of investment so that you can get a chance at winning a piece of gear that will make your character measurably better.  The kind that many players will never see and may or may not have interest in participating in.   The kind that provides the best of the best in the game, with no other possible way to get those same prizes or ones that are comparable to them for their game time?   The kind that brings out the worst in people – causing fights, racial and ethnic slurs, discrimination, and generally turns the part of the population involved into either a cesspool of brats or a flock of arrogant twits?

Where’s the angst over that?  Because compared to that, if Perfect World or Sony or whoever the hell else wants to sell lockboxes at a $1 a pop for items that aren’t any better than similar items already in the game that you can attain for free, and that I can choose not to pay for, I’m not sure what the problem is.