All Quiet On the Blogging Front

I’ve been a bit busy in the clouds lately. It turns out, I’m pretty good at this World of Warplanes thing.

goin goin goin

So I’ve been working my way up the bracket around the usual busy holiday season. Last year I managed all of four posts in the month of December. I imagine this year will be about the same.

I have on tap a post about how games are never well served by making major changes during a game’s Open Beta (as Mechwarrior Online, and most recently, WarThunder have proven). And a post reviewing my “Looking Ahead” post from last January, and wondering what 2013 would bring (which is going to be very interesting, there has been movement in just about every area). And last but not least – a caption contest, with a prize.

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the holidays and staying warm.

Now This Is How You Pick Testers

Warships dev team take notice, this is how you pick testers for your next game.

Soldier!
Today we are enlisting you in the War Thunder Ground Forces Training Unit!

The Ground Forces HQ announces the forthcoming tanks Closed Beta commencement, and gives you a chance to participate in it.

In the next three weeks we will be issueing challenges to identify our most determined and loyal fighters.

Receive and complete these new combat missions to earn your access to the Closed Beta test and get a chance to win other valuable gifts like War Thunder special t-shirts and watches. The more you complete the higher your chances are.

The testing itself is currently scheduled to start before December 4th.

So brace yourselves and be ready for the first mission that we are issuing today, on November 13th!

From 13:00 GMT November 13th to 11:00 GMT November 14th (6:00 PST November 13th to 4:00 PST November 14th):

destroy 60 ground units in Arcade battles or
30 ground units in History battles or
30 ground units in Full Real battles.

You can check progress in Profile- achievements -> achievements -> SPECIAL

Good luck!

War Thunder Ground Forces HQ

Wanna test our new game? Show your dedication through the current game. Instead of a bunch of my little pony forum posts.

The Reward Prophet and the 700 Club Blues

So I posted a while back speculating on what the WoWp reward planes were that I was desperately trying to get to 700 battles to ensure that I got them.

Well, Wargaming finally took the wraps off and revealed what those planes were. Oh, and they, incidentally, also revealed that you didn’t need 700 battles to receive them if you were an Alpha tester. Because your original battles count was not included (as I suspected) and because we had been so long in the testing process. Thanks for the head’s up WG! Seriously though, I can’t really complain. I’ve enjoyed the 800+ battles I’m at now immensely and that has accumulated XP for my starting pilots for launch, as well as helping me learn the game, so I’m fine with it.

And the planes? Well I was hit and miss.

Open Beta Reward Plane

First up was the ground attack plane. I picked the Pegas, thinking it would be the Open Beta reward since it was so low tier and that there is no way they would sell a tier 1 premium. And I was right, the Pegas it is!

WG has made some changes though. They added ordinance and beefed the planes HP a bit, and moved it to tier 2. Its a pretty versatile plane if you put rockets on it, and a nice fun change of pace in the lower tiers. Fun, different, not OP. Thumbs up Wargaming!


Closed Beta Reward Plane

Next up would be either a US or German plane. Turns out I was way off base here. The P-11C is being given as a code for live events in Russia. And Wargaming introduced a slew of US premium planes in their last update – the prototypes for the Wildcat, The Corsair, and two from the Hawk line. But the reward plane was none of those. Its the quirky and fun tier 5 XP-77. I never thought a tier 5 would pop for this, but in retrospect it makes sense – the reward tank for WoT was a tier 5 US. And the XP is a great fit – it was a prototype plane that was scrapped, and with premiums for the usual lines in place, its the odd duck out. I have played a couple of battles with it on the test server and its an interesting plane to dink around with. If anything its a little underpowered at the tier. But it looks funky and can hold its own at altitude since it does pack a bigger punch than the usual machinegun armed US planes (the XP has a hub mounted 20 on it which packs a nice accurate punch). Again, thumbs up for a nice plane for the CB testers.

Alpha Reward Plane

And then we got to the mothership announcement. I had expected the tier two carrier plane, but again, its a code for live events – this time for those in Germany like Gamescom. Last time I threw out the heavy fighter, thinking they would need a premium there for training and the line’s popularity. And they did. I just didn’t know they had two premiums lined up. In the next patch, the tier 4 Bf-110C6 dropped – the 110 classic, but with a giant 37mm cannon underslung on the fuselage. When it release I thought that might be one of the rewards – since it is a heavy, but unlike the rest of the line, can’t carry ordinance because of the gun. But I was wrong, Wargaming saved the best for last.

The Me 210. That beast of a heavy fighter with excellent rear guns, the ability to carry bombs, and serious forward firepower. Seriously, I love it. Particularly as someone who enjoyed the heavies but had no intention of climbing the line at launch, its a great change of pace. And again, not OP and quirky – the regular production 410 is a tier 6 heavy, so nobody can feel jilted – if it was an aircraft they wanted, there is an avenue to get an even better version through regular play.

And ultimately, that’s what reward planes are about – fun and quirky pieces you can show off a year or two from now and have people go “kewl” and ohh and ahh over.

And Wargaming, though prone to fails, also has some nice touches. The reward planes are one, but the second one was even better – if you didn’t make the 700 club, but had at least 100 battles played over the course of testing, then you got a special camouflage for your aircraft. So even those players who put a little bit of time in got something nice and unique as a result.

As for me – I will begin the game with a whopping six premium aircraft, the reward planes plus my preorder (XFL-1), the 15th anniversary byplany (I-15bis DM), and the earned with tokens F-2A1 Buffalo, ranging from tiers 2, 3, and 5. And my greedy nature is already trying to decide what tier 4 premium I want to use some gold on at lunch. What? I have to fill in the gap, right?

One week til launch. See you in the air!

The Quest to 700 Gets a Reprieve

Wargaming announced today that World of Warplanes would be taking a delay to their launch date. For my eyes, its probably not a bad move. There was a hitch in the last update, which means that the British planes are not in yet, and you are going to want more than just a weekend to test those buggers before launch I would think.

The feedback has been…almost 100% positive. The forums are alive with congratulations and kudos and agreements from the playerbase (Someone even marveled that this must surely be the first time that a company announced a delay and had such a positive and supportive response!) The fact that they announced that this gives you more time to get to 700 battles and continue to earn tokens didn’t hurt either. Someone pointed out that if you already had more than 780 tokens to your name right now, if you continue to earn the 240 a day, by the time launch rolls around, you will be able to lock on to 6 months of free premium time. That is a whale of a catch!

For me though, I’m not sure. I’ve had to play 33 games a day to keep pace for the original launch date, and I’ve needed just about all those to get all the daily token allotments. I’m not sure I can keep that pace up for another 7 weeks after already having been running it for the last three.

I have 133 battles left, not counting my Closed Beta tally. And I have to admit, I will be resting easier when I see my battle count at over 700 without those CB battles added in…just in case. So I have 53 days to get 133 battles. I’m thinking maybe I will play enough each day to get 3 kills, 3 victories and all 10 of the easy to grab ground targets destroyed. This leads up to 140 tokens a day and probably won’t take more than 6 matches. That’s enough to earn another 3 months of premium, buy the one premium they are letting you keep post release (a prototype of the Brewster Buffalo), and have more than enough battles to earn my reward plane.

Kudos again to Wargaming for smart and savvy moves. They are just grooving through the mess this month. Good for them!

Coming Up Aces In The 11th Hour: WoWp

I played poker at my neighbors house a few weeks ago. Texas Hold Em. And three times in the course of the game, we had players wiped on the last card (“the river”). When that happens, sometimes players don’t know what they are getting into and win by luck, sometimes players are betting a good hand that gets hosed at the end, and sometimes players are looking for and hoping for that small probability pick to land – truly a betting action.

I feel like World of Warplanes just pulled an Ace on the river and we are playing a different game now. I have bemoaned the terrible interface, the lack of direction, the slavish tendency to conform to the norms of World of Tanks for no reason other than familiarity, and so on.

Mostly, I was blunt and told them, even in Alpha, that they had a choice to make: turn this into a flight sim and count on hardcore players throwing a lot of money at it, OR, turn it into an arcade sim and try to cater to as wide a playerbase as possible. They refused, even in closed beta, to do this.

But somewhere along the line in Open Beta, they crossed the line. Which leads me to believe it may not have been a lack of direction but a coding/development problem that they were trying to solve. Whatever it was, you can now jump into the game, use a mouse and keyboard, not have to tweek the settings, and have a fun time. That is huge. I haven’t loaded up the joystick to try because I haven’t needed to. Everything is catered to a casual player.

I have a sneaky feeling this is tied also to some of the feedback on War Thunder, which basically amounts to concerns about the game being “too realistic” – a two second burst of fire taking your plane down, for example. WT handles this by allowing respawns of your plane. WoWp handles it by showing you visually/graphically just how erratic the burst fire from a six pack of fifty cal’s can be, preserving some realism while moving that two seconds of doom to something more like 6+ seconds, depending on range and weapons used. The fights are short and brutal – 3 minutes on average (compared to WoT’s 5 minute average), so while there is no respawn, there is little downtime either. All great for the modern gamer on the go.

The interface has been minimized to give you just the basics, planes are given ratings based on their modules in basic areas like “firepower” and “speed.” These allow for an “at-a-glance” comparison from plane to plane and give you some small tips on how to fight the opponent based on this. A nice voice warns you before stalls and gun jams and collision courses. Ground attacks have gotten easier, while AA has gotten tougher – gone are light fighters inflating their score with base kills. Now you need a big fat plan with lots of guns and bombs and hit points to get through their.

Speaking of which, plane roles are much clearer now. There is a spectrum running from Air to Air all the way over to Air to Ground, with planes having nice niches along the way. Carrier aircraft, previously muddled in concept, have become “medium fighters” – not quite as air-to-air capable as light fighters, but packing a small selection of bombs or rockets for a quick ground kill if needed in the fight for base capture air superiority.

I really wouldn’t have discovered any of this, except for the big announcement of shared premium time and gold, and the ability to earn premium time relatively easily for both accounts by running a few missions a day in WoWp. So I figured if I played 2-3 games a day, that would net me enough tokens to turn into a month of premium time. Now though, I am looking forward at how many games I need to collect the three(!) beta reward planes.

That’s not to say all is well with WoWp. The game itself has struggled all through its development cycle. The end result is that its hard to find more than 1,000 players online even in the free Open Beta. Which gives you free premium time and credits for playing it. That you can also use in WoT. And that in turn leads to matches with less than 15 on a side, and sometimes with 4 tiers crunched together. And what happens when a P-51D Mustang from 1944 goes head to head with a US biplane craft from the 1930’s?

We will have to see where the game goes from here. But WoWp has yet one more card to play. And its a doozy – giving you an eye-popping deal for buying into WoWp. I just don’t think they have marketed it far and wide enough to get people’s attention. So I’m going to help them tomorrow by doing just that, because I think it could turn the tide.

The Joy and Pain of New Computers

So I’ve been gone a piece.   It takes awhile to migrate everything over, which is the pain of a new computer.   But oh…the joy.

 

woot

So my aging laptop has been retired.   And in its place, this lovely  Lenovo Y500  IdeaPad.     It is a gamers laptop, and it is heaven.    Nice i7 core, 8gb ram, 16gb/1tb ssd/standard hard drive so it boots instantly.    And best of all – not one, no, but TWO Nvidia GeForce 750m’s, purring in tandem.

 

My birthday gift from my lovely wife – who hovered like a vulture over the Lenovo outlet site for days, camping for a leet drop like it was 1999 and she was logged into Everquest.

 

The downside of course, beyond the mentioned migration, is getting used to Windows 8.  I have found it to be – well not as bad as I feared.   Its definitely different, with some strange design decisions that make absolutely no sense, but its not terrible.  Like – why is the shutdown button hidden in the “settings” menu?

 

But, I think I have it all set up and all my relevant files moved.   The last thing that’s been a headache is my RSS reader.   I use Bamboo, which is an addon for Firefox and built into the browser, but I have discovered, much to my chagrin, that while it does have a great “import” feature – it has no commensurate “export” feature.   And I’m lazy, so I’ve been putting off the process of re-inputting the insane number of feeds I am tracking in the old browser.

 

But the graphics…oh the graphics.  Tanks is a joy to behold, running at max quality and 55 fps.   Rift is beautiful, now that I can render more than 100m in front of my character.   Even Everquest II shines like it never has before.

 

So I’ve been in la-la land, and transfer land.  But tomorrow, its return to posting land, and boy do I have some posts.  We are going to talk about why lore can never be player generated, and why EQN was the most ridiculously misleading pimped and reveal of the decade (so far).  And, by jove, there will be some beautiful screenshots.  I can promise you that!

Sometimes Bad Is Good: Developer Edition

This will be a two parter, so venture back here tomorrow for the Player’s Edition.  But for now…

 

Its pretty clear that I’m not a big fan of Bioware at this point in my life.  And they have reeled drunkenly from failure to failure in a way that is almost gawkworthy.   The latest example I can give you is when I went to rename my characters for this past weekend.  I lost out on my first choice because, when you click a character to play that doesn’t have a name and it prompts you to rename, you’d think that you were being prompted to rename *that* character.  The one you just hit the big PLAY button for.  And you’d be wrong.

 

Again

 

What I finally figured out I think was that it prompted a renaming process, in reverse order of character creation – in other words, starting with your newest creation and proceeding to your oldest.   In any case, my Jedi Knight ended up with my Sith’s name, and my Sith ended up with…well, about my 8th choice, because everything else was taken.

 

But when you are that bad, making sloppy mistakes left and right, sometimes, the mistakes actually work in the opposite direction.   Some of them can be hilarious, like when players realized with the new Bolster system in PVP taking into account gear scores, that it was actually better for them, statwise, to fight naked (for even more hilarity, that link is to the French players complaining/rejoicing).   Soon Nude PVP will be the wave of the future.  You can combine it with a dedicated Singles server for even more fun.  The creative side of me desperately wants to shoot a a cover video of Methods of Mayhem’s Get Naked video with Darth Vader taking Tommy Lee’s place, and perhaps the Emperor covering George Clinton’s part with a “Doin’ it Sith style” voiceover.

 

George knows whats up.

 

If you have no idea what I’m talking about – be glad.  I wouldn’t either, but working with teenagers sometimes introduces you to parts of live you would never have otherwise known about, lol!

 

Anyways, to get to the point – there are also times when messing up has an unintended positive consequence for the players – sometimes being bad is good.    Wargaming made a goof in the last update on the Russian servers with a shell price, and the end result was that some players ended up selling off a load of shells for ten times more than they had bought them for.  Instant profit!  But Bioware has to do everything better, so they messed up in real world econ, and I profited.   You are supposed to get 100 Cartel Coins a month for having a security key, right?   Check my ledger…

 

Again 2

 

Needless to say, those coins weren’t on my ledger for long.  I burned plenty this weekend, while I could.  Did it make up for all the Bioware fails to get a few extra Legacy perks and an account wide Unify Colors unlock?   Not really.  But it did make the weekend and the playtime more palatable.   I’d like to think it wasn’t a mistake, but rather some nice developer down in the vaults that read one of my posts and had a little “oops” with my account balance, but that’s just my glass-half-full side talking.  It only lasts until I unified the colors on my agent and found that my green chestplate produced some brown pants and a matching brown helmet.   I’d be mad, but since I got it for free…close enough, Bioware.  Close enough.

Just Sit Right Back And You’ll Hear A Tale…

A tale of a fateful trip.   It started when my brother called and gave a helpful tip.   “There’s this sandbox game you ought to try, in the age of sail and ship…”

 

So I downloaded Uncharted Waters Online.  How to describe this game.   Imagine your favorite 90’s console RPG made sweet, sweet love to EVE Online, and this is the legitimate but slightly offbeat offspring.  Skill based – but with classes that favor certain skills (advancing them at twice the normal rate) and can be changed with minimal effort.  Three well-defined areas of focus – Combat, Trade, and Adventure.  100 v 100 PvP battles but also options that would allow you to play with absolutely no weapon or combat skills and still do just fine.    And its free to play – no, seriously – there is *no* subscription option.  No “gold” members.  And a learning curve that is higher than average, but with a solid tutorial that lasts…

 

uwo2
Also, for those of you who worship a minimalist UI, I have found your god.

Well, it really was a three hour tour – that’s how long it took to get through the tutorial.   The first one.  And I loved every minute of it.   I had that feeling like I might when on the sixth mission in that tutorial, I was told to sail from London to Antwerp to find a book.  And all I had was a static map of Northern Europe with a few major cities and landing areas marked on it.  No quest markers or exclamation points.  I admit, I panicked a little.   The game kinda slapped me and was like “didn’t you learn to read maps in middle school?”  London here, Antwerp to the southeast there…I have a compass.  Okay, lets do this thing.   And that’s the brilliance of this sandbox.  Just enough help balanced with just enough respect for the fact that you are an adult and can probably figure this out on your own.  (And if not, you’re going to be caps lock yelling in the school/help channel, where one of the helpful GMs – yes, honest to god, they are there – will help you out. )

 

The Map (TM)
The Map (TM)

 

I’ve played a grand total of three nights now, and I’m only just now wrapping up the Intermediate (second of the three) tutorials.  I’ve also taken a few contracts (missions/quests) in between, just to make sure my learning was more than just book oriented, and I admit, the tutorials are good.  One of the oddities of this sandbox is that you can only have one active contract at a time.  Its just as well for me, playing the game mainly in the Adventure realm – most of those quests are things like the one I did last night.   Sitting in Antwerp, and I get a contract from a scholar who has heard rumors of a flying rodent over in Oslo.  Would I be so good as to head over that way and investigate them?  You’ll need Biology 1, Ecological Research 1, and know how to speak Nordic.   I did so – though I should also note that, since I have a healthy fear of pirates, I picked up Swordplay before I left as well.   Trade contracts will ask for you to do things like secure certain trade goods (only certain goods are available in certain ports) or ask you to learn new crafting recipes.  Combat (aka “Maritime”) contracts will have you tracking down NPC pirates on the waters or bandits on land.

 

Or, you can stuff the contracts altogether and start your life of PvP (or PvE) piracy and combat.   Along the way, you can use guns or hand weapons, which gain power as you use them and get better with them, and equip any number of specialty items for your party of sailors/marines – from hand grenades to throwing knives to medicines to tip  the tide of battle in your favor.   Not to mention your own skills, some like Swordplay that will help you and your party both passively or something in the Surgery line that you can activate using Vigour – action points.

 

Combat is overall much like Eve – not a lot of whack-a-mole button mashing – more about your ship and party setups.   Do you use your upgrade slots for an armored stern-castle for an edge in boarding combat?  Or use it to pile on extra sails?   And will they be vertical sails for outright speed or horizontal ones for maneuverability?   Will you choose a ship with rowers for the best agility – knowing that will leave you with less hands for boarding combat and cannon fire?    Should you have long range cannons or smaller cannons that reload faster?  Or a mix of a the two?  Do you use one of your active skills to try to tip the battle?  Vigour doesn’t regenerate over time – only with eating and drinking.  Did you bring along any food beyond your basic provisions for that?  Will you have time to eat before your next combat?  Maybe you should make a run for it – or hand over some tribute items (NPC) or offer up a ransom of ducats (PC) to try to get them to leave you alone.   Overall – the game is much more forgiving than Eve is though – ships do not cost and arm and a leg to buy and outfit, and getting shipwrecked is not so bad – unless you end up in a country where you don’t speak the language.  But then hopefully you are smart enough to not be privateering off the coast of a country whose language you are unfamilar with.  And if you are – well, there’s a Body Language for that – it will take up one of your skill slots, but if you don’t want a bunch of languages clogging up those slots either, it will at least let you withdraw some money from the bank to buy a cheap ship that will get you home.

 

Crafting is deep and wide too.  Advanced ship builders can customize their ship right down to the most basic stats – it looks like a whale of a trading ship, but all that cargo space is now filled with guns.  Cook anything from the hilarious (Sea Pizza) to the most formal (Steak Tartar).   Speaking of which, if you want to present your new discovery to the Governor in his honor for a a reward or perhaps a new skill or in return for the production of a special item – best not do it in your salt-water skivvies.  He only talks to people who can dress like a civilized man (or woman).  Best pay attention to your clothing’s formality stats as well as its protection values.  Or keep a couple of sets of clothing on hand – yes you can make those too.  Craft at the craft shop, at your charater’s housing, in your ship, or anywhere else, then set up shop in the town square and hawk your wares – yep, direct P2P sales – or put it up in the Bazaar and look for an offer.

 

Or you can give a violin performance.
Or you can give a violin performance.

 

Adventuring is the real gem though.  If STO had a system like this in place, it would have been the feather in the cap most traditional Star Trek fans were looking for.  Non-combat puzzle missions that garner “discoveries” that can be turned in to famous figures for achievements, xp, cash, and other favors.  John Dee in London is looking for more esoteric mysteries, but that new Celtic manuscript you uncovered with your landing party on that uncharted beach in Northern Europe is just the kind of thing that Mr. Shakespeare would pay handsomely for.   Contracts may ask you to open up trade routes between cities, visiting both within a certain restricted time period and using our Survey skill to map out the route.    Or you may find a map for a some treasure an old pirate buried down in the Ottoman Empire.  Visit Japan and trade your clipper in for one of their famous armored “turtle ships” or castle-like Atekebunes and your leather hauberk for a kimono.  Major cities like London  will have randomly trending fashions though – so maybe you should buy two and sell the other when you get home – it may fetch you enough money to buy that private island you have been dreaming about.

 

Yeah..maybe not.
Yeah..maybe not.

 

I started the quest for a good sandbox MMO over a year ago.  I tried Istaria, which started out strong and then got dumb and slow.   I had much the same problem in Vanguard this past month when I went back to it.  Three solid nights of adventuring got me halfway from level 22 to level 23.  Uh…no thanks.  Project Gorgon is back up and running, and I will be involved there from time to time, but its a long way from done.   Dawntide is on life support, and probably won’t recover.

 

I think that quest has come to an end.  If you want to try the game but aren’t a Steam person, here’s the main site.  The game is truly free to play, but the shop offers lots of fun and convenience items.   You don’t really need anything to start out, but the Novice Sailor’s Package at $4.00 provides plenty of bang for the buck with large quantities of provisions, consumables for sailing to save on your Vigour, and some Lifesavers to recover your already experience crewman if you do get shipwrecked after running afoul of pirates or a trolling player.   My advice for starting players – to the tutorial.  All of it.  And then go back and do the tutorials for the other two areas of interest as well (the tutorial system is “smart” – it will skip basic lessons you already know from another field).   Oh and keep most of your cash in the bank, just in case.  Not every three hour tour ends well.