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.

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…

Wargaming Rolls Out Their Anniversary Special to Copious Yawning

Lets face it, tanks players are looking for one of three things when it comes to their WoT (or WoWp these days) specials:


1)  x3 or x5 first win bonuses.    There is something about having a nice match and jumping 8-10k XP that just feels insanely good.  And no matter how terrible the weekend is, just one good first win can make up for all of it.


2)  Premium discounts.   We all covet many of the premium tanks – and in an online world that charges $10 for a mount, charting $50 is pretty steep.  We can’t afford as many of those, so its nice that we can save up some money and buy one on sale every now and then.


3)  Equipment sales.  Gear for the tanks is expensive, and its not practical to just move gear from tank to tank for most items.  So we are always looking to save some cash so that we can continue to buy the fun new shiny in the form of new tanks.   I’ve said before (and I think most WoT players would agree) that silver/credits is the single most limiting factor to advancement in the game.  It takes the longest to farm and gets spent the fastest when the price for tanks is in the millions.   So we want to save those creds for buying new tanks, not a 10% loading bonus for a tank we already had.


Wargaming, somehow, after six months of running their mouth about how awesome this sale and special was going to be, have managed to give their player base none of the above.   They did offer a few of the rare premiums, like the KV-5 and German-captured Char B1s, but they bundled them in multi-tank packages available only through the Gift Shop and charged *even more* for them.    Been waiting for that Char, which is a tier 4 premium?   $90.   Ninety.  Nine-oh.   Yes, you get another tier 8 premium, some premium time, some credits, and so on and so forth…but who wants to spend $90?   And the KV-5, which I bought straight up for $34 I think it was the last time it was on sale?  Now its $55 with all the stuff they have added into the bundle.


Not that the KV-5 isn't worth it.  A very rewarding tank for discerning players...
Not that the KV-5 isn’t worth it. A very rewarding tank for discerning players…


Of course, I could be biased.  I was hoping for at least a small discount on the SU-122-44 that I wanted, so maybe its just my personal disappointment peaking through.   But I can’t help thinking that maybe the $30 I was saving up for that SU will now get spent elsewhere.   Because the other great thing about the big sales is that *everything* usually goes on sale.  Without that fourth important component to match with  the ones above, I have no way of knowing when I will get my shot at the tank.    So I might as well carry on in another game and adopt a “wait and see” approach.

Summer Campaign Blues

I’m approaching my one month anniversary with my new clan, Vorbild Panzergruppe.   And I continue to enjoy the people in the clan, the opportunity to platoon (err…group) with some really great people, and the new found fun of Clan Wars.    I’ve made it into four battles thus far, with a 2-2 record.  The most recent of those came with my return to town and gaming this week, as we take part in the Landlords Summer Campaign, with the  carrot at the end of the campaign being the otherwise-unobtainable M60 for the top 5 clans of each “stage” and the top 30 clans overall (provided you meet the participation requirements – 5 and 10 battles, respectively).




I have no idea where we are in the standings, as apparently Wargaming, as usual (and like Sony) dives in first without putting together all the loose ends (there are still unanswered questions about what counts as a participation battle, for instance).  But before the campaign launched, depending on which stats your parsed (it always comes down to that, doesn’t it?)  we were somewhere between 26 and 32 in the rankings.  So there is at least a shot there.


There were, of course, the usual riots over an otherwise unobtainable piece of “gear.”  And while Wargaming set the campaign up in such a way that all tiers 1-10 each had a time period of use, it was clear from the beginning that only the best were going to get this tank.   What was (and is) unclear is to what extent the top clans intended to rig this contest.


Early on there was a semi-joke thread that the big clans should get together and decide among themselves which 5 would get their tank in each phase, and then drop out of the running.   And apparently, at least some of those clans thought – hey…that’s not a bad idea.   In any case, we do have a small advantage in that we have a rather unique diplomatic position.


VPG is not a top clan, of course, but it is a stable and quality unit with some excellent alumni.  You see, quality players come to VPG, learn the ropes, hone their skills, and then invariably move on (by invitation or application) to a top clan.   As a result, we have good relationships with a number of the clans through former members.  And nobody wants to screw us over because we keep finding, grooming, and sending on quality players to refresh their ranks.   So we are often in the middle of horse trading for territory, or watching someone’s back, and so on.   Believe me, this makes life much easier, and gives us a leg up.


In fact, the only real problem is that we got on a losing streak the week before the campaign started.  And while we shook it off long enough to pull down a couple of territories, its reared its ugly head again.  Unless we have a solid outing tonight, we may end this campaign without any victory points, and that will probably be a hard deficit to overcome.   Here’s the map as it currently stands – you can just barely make out our red stylized “V” down in South Carolina:


current map


Personally, I have a deficit to overcome as well.   Last night was my first summer campaign battle – which means I need nine more to qualify if we make the top 30.  And I’m going to be gone two of the next four weeks.   Ouch.   Not to mention that with the kids off of school, our usual bedtime/nighttime schedule has shifted backwards a bit, often running smack into game time.   Double Ouch.


I’m trying not to worry too much about that though, and just show up as much as I can and contribute as much as possible.  If I end up with an M60 – great.  I had no idea that was coming when I signed onto a clan, so its just gravy.   And if I don’t…well, at the very least, I can say that World of Tanks is making for some interesting summer gaming!

State of My Game: June

This is a nutso week for me.  I was gone for three days and came back just in time for my wife to fly out for four days, and then we can have a nice peaceful two days together before I’m gone again another week.


So, I don’t have much time to write.  Or play.  But here’s a general rundown on where I am right now:


World of Tanks:  Unfortunately between travel and single-parenting, I haven’t gotten much of anywhere lately.  And all our Clan Wars matches have been super early.  And my client crashed on my laptop.  So I upgraded my desktop drivers to the new 320’s.  That worked…for a day.  Then they started crashing again.  I guess I just got a lemon video card.  Oi.   Anyway, so now we are back to laptop play.    I haven’t made any significant progress on my tier 9’s  About the only thing I can say is that I have fallen in love with the SU-100M1.  It is fast, has nice angled armor, insane travserse speed.  And the upgraded gun is super accurate and drills out shots every six seconds or so.   Tier 9’s are sometimes and issue, but the game is so accurate and the tank so fast, that even getting the best of them is not often a difficult prospect.  I can relocate, and on occasion I’ve even circled them to great effect.  Great tank that I will be holding onto as I continue to climb the line.


The new camo's are pretty awesome, btw...
The new camo’s are pretty awesome, btw…


Star Trek Online:  The new Romulan content is great, but I’m stuck with analysis paralysis.  I really don’t know whether to go KDF or FED.  And so I haven’t done either.  Really, despite the new content, what I would like to do now is go back and play all the KDF missions with my level 50 engineer.  I leveled solely through Duty Officers with him, mostly because the UI was such a RED EYESORE ATTACK.   Now that this has been fixed, I’d like to run the actual content.  Oh, and I think I will be shelling out for at least one of the Romulan refit ships.


Hello, gorgeous. I would trade my pointy ears for you.


Uncharted Waters Online:  I dinked around a bit last week, but that’s about it.   I really want to go finished the advanced schools and start doing some exploring…


Lord of the Rings Online:  I think we finished up the Lone Lands this past weekend.  It has been slow going with my travel, but we are still enjoying ourselves.  We talked about trying one of the 3-person instances soon.  That could be trouble though since I can’t even hold aggro on regular mobs, must less boss monsters.  We will see I guess!


The Secret World:  I’m back, and I rolled a Templar.  Surprise!  While I have never really been a self-modeler or self-biographer in my roleplaying, there was one thing the Templars offered that nobody else did that I decided I absolutely couldn’t live without:


I can only dream of being this stylish IRL...
I can only dream of being this stylish IRL…


Plus it goes with a healer build.  Right up my alley.


Anyway, this may be it for the next week and a half.  Game well everyone!

End Game Sighted

So last night I only fought a few battles in World of Tanks, and the first match of the evening, at first glance, would seem like any other match where I played decently:




Until you start to look a little closer, and realize that all my targets were in the same clan.  And that my clan tags are different.  And then you get that as of last night, I am no longer a person on the outside looking in (or up) at Clan Wars:




A little under two weeks ago, I took the plunge and dove into a clan that I’ve had my eyes on for a long time, Vorbild Panzergruppe (Model Tank Group).  The name has meaning, and they aren’t kidding – they are one of the few active CW clans that I have nobody on my ignore list from.  Every match I’ve been in or against them has demonstrated skilled players who were as good at holding their tongues and playing nice as they were smacking down enemy armor.


I had originally told myself way back when that once I hit 5,000 battles I would look at getting into Clan Wars.   I felt at that point my skills would be good enough and I would have a solid enough garage that I could handle it.   But when I was honest with myself at that point, I realized I still had a lot to go.   I set a new target at 6,000 battles and figured I would have to put my nose to the grindstone just to get there.   I was just hoping that I could round out that tier 10 wing of my garage and maybe make the jump before the end of the year.


But as it turned out, while working on becoming a better player, I discovered a few things.  Like the fact that I wasn’t very good with tier 9 and 10 tanks.   I pondered them if I should shelve them and work on my tier 8 skills, watching and learning, or go ahead and jump into a clan and hope to learn from them.  I did both.


Over the last seven weeks, I put my big boys aside and concentrated on grinding my tier 8’s.  The IS-3 and King Tiger are both done (but I kept both…great tanks) and my Centurion 1 is upgraded (but I’m not keen on going further up the line, so I’m done there).    I picked up the American arty line to relearn how it works and hope to improve that facet of my understanding of the game.  (That has helped considerably by the way – if you think arty is a killjoy, play them for awhile and learn their strengths and weaknesses, it makes a clear difference).   And I dipped back down into tier 5’s just to have some fun and not be all “TANKS R SRS BIZNESS.”


The results speak for themselves:  My win rate has jumped from 51.01% to 51.70%.  My efficiency and Win6/7 scores are up, along with my K/D ration and damage output.   But I was getting lonely.   With my dad on hiatus until arty is “fixed” and with my brother in an area of unreliable internet, I lost my usual platoon mates.   So I figured it was time.


VPG has been wonderful as well.   And they helped with the other half of the equation.   Back on April sixth, my ST-1 was 13/33 (39%) in the victory column.   As of right now, its 39/78 (50%).    Yep.   I’ve won 26 of my last 45 matches in it and brought the win rate up that high.   I would never have thought that possible.   But when you platoon with other tier 9’s who have good (or at least decent) skills and have good communication with them, everything changes.


And all of that culminated last night in my first Clan Wars battle.   I’ve been on deck a couple of times, but its up to the Field Commander to pick their team and tanks and lay out the strategy for a given battle.   And I’ve had to learn some of the ins and outs of those game systems – where to go for the match, how to declare myself ready for it, etc.   Last night with a bunch of people listing their heavies, I decided to list up my T-62A, thinking that might give me a better shot at getting in.    And as it turns out – we were one Bat Chat short.   So in I went.


I was not the hero of the battle.   But I held up my end of the court, had decent damage output, and damaged four of their tanks while spotting three of them.   So I did what I was supposed to do.  It felt good, and the battle was pretty lopsided when all was said and done.


As icing on the cake, after that I check the list and saw that one of the tankers on the other team was a guy I knew and respected from regular matches.  And I think that’s when all the hard work clicked and I went – “hey, I *am* good enough to do this.”   I’m glad I made the moves I did, and its fun seeing hard work pay off.    Its what Syp calls “Satisfaction” and the game gave me some last night for sure.


And while I’m here, a shout out to Cool_Man, who found me in game last night and said terribly nice things about my blog.  We got a chance to run some tanks together ourselves.   Thanks for the platoon Cool, hope we can do it again in the future!

Making Sense of the .8.6 WoT Changes

If you have kept up with any of the leaks or even official info…there are a lot of changes coming for .8.6 and some of the ramifications of them are a little difficult to unwind.  I’m going to see if I can break them down a bit for you.  There are essentially three major changes:  Arty Nerf, Accuracy Buff, Stopgap Camo Revision.   There are also rumors of a major change in the game economy, and a confirmation of the removal of a previously unknown XP penalty to SPG’s and TD’s (in other words, SPG’s and TD’s were gaining experience slower than regular tanks – this is something WG had previously denied but are now confirming….)  Anyway, in order:



Arty Nerf:


Basically, along with the rebalancing and addition of new SPG’s to bring every tier into the normal 2-10 parameter, there will be some nerfing going on.  All SPG’s, across the board, have essentially had their Rate of Fire and Accuracy coefficient nerfed by and average of %40.   In other words, if you were getting 1 shot off every 20 seconds before, now it will take you 28 seconds.  If the accuracy was .5, now it will be .7 and so on.  Please note: this is in general, and the specifics vary from vehicles to vehicle.

And yes, I know what you are thinking.  This makes arty virtually unplayable.  And it would, if not for the XP buff, which is really removing the XP penalty.  SPG’s will now earn 50% more XP per battle.  There are hints that there is still something more to compensate, but mum is the word now.  Early whispers are some kind of accuracy buff for shots within a particular area –  much like zeroing in is done in real life.  No idea if that’s true or not.



Accuracy Buff:


Right now, when you pull the trigger, your shot will be somewhere in that circle, right?   Well it turns out there where within that circle is indeed based on skill, but it follows a standard distribution curve.  But it  turns out, instead of the normal 3-sigma on a typical bell curve, the outside of the circle is a 1.3.

Yeah.  So to help visualize, here is the normal curve:

Basically, anything from 1.3 onward on this table, in the game right now, is the “edge of the cirle.”  Something like 19% of your shots are landing there.  With a fully trained crew.

In the new update, the “edge of the cirle” will be where the 2 is now.  The end result – many more of your shots will land much closer to the center of the circle, and very few (less than 1% if I remember correctly) will land on the edge.   This is a tremendous buff to accuracy.  There are some changes coming to penetration to compensate – basically high end tanks are having their penetration numbers nerfed, and HEAT shells are being reworked to be less powerful and penetrate less.   Some tanks will be receiving an HP buff as well from what I understand.

As I understand it: this change will not apply to arty.  Read on to know why.



Stopgap Camo Revision


Developer Q&A’s have confirmed that the .9.0 patch will bring a complete overhaul of how camoflage works, but for now two rather significant changes are being made.    The first is hard to pinpoint the result of – every tank in the game is having its camo coefficient redone.  There is a hidden fudge factor for how easy it is to hide a vehicle in the game.   In other words, even if you have a full on camo trained crew and a net, its still tough to hide a JagdTiger…its just too darn big.   Likewise, its much easier to hide small tanks like the T71.

That is being combined with a change to how camo nets and the camo skill work.   Basically anything that was multiplied into the equation is now added or subtracted before.   Camo nets used to raise this base value by 25%.  Now they just offer a flat .25 bonus.   The long and short of that is that vehicles that didn’t hide very well got a buff, and vehicles that hid too well get a nerf.   Also the ability to gain a bonus from bushes has been nerfed.

The end result:  engagement ranges should increase across the board by 15-20%.  And there was much rejoicing.  Incidentally, this is one of the reasons for the severity of the arty nerf – its now easier to see and tougher to hide and tanks will be detected earlier.   This would only make arty more powerful, and the hope is that the nerf along with not granting them the changes to accuracy will result in an overall nerf.

Those are the major things, and if you have questions, I’ll try to answer as best I can.    And if you are in the know and I missed something, feel free to correct me.


TLD;DR:   Arty will be harder to play, Tanks will be easier to spot and hit.  Skill makes more of an impact.


KV-5 Is Back…AGAIN

Do you believe in life after love?


No…wait.  Do you believe in second chances?  Ones that will make you sing like Cher even though you have a voice like Kermit the Frog?


World of Tanks rolled out some Gift Packages for this Military Parade weekend, with its 5x’s and half-off just about everything.  But they also added a fair number of Gift Shop packages of tier 8’s combined with garage slots for cash direct, rather than gold.   This is actually great, because then I don’t feel like I have to fork over another $50 for the decent cash-for-gold conversion rate.



And that’s a pretty good price for a tier 8 premium, particularly since it includes the garage slot as well.  Needless to say, I’m not passing on this beast again.   Looks like between this and all the Kickstarters, I might as well just throw in the towel on saving money this month.  Oi.


Anyway, great deals, great tanks.  I hope nobody tells them that the real military parades are actually still a couple of weekends away