Challenge Accepted

This open beta for the World of Warplanes is the gift that keeps on giving. Now, in addition to all the tokens (by the time the dust clears I will have earned 3 months of free premium time and the free carryover premium aircraft), and having just rolled across the 700 battle mark to qualify me for the (upt to three) tester reward aircraft, in order to keep momentum over this last month of testing, Wargaming has thrown down the gauntlet.

airborn chalenge

Pretty nice. Play ~12 games a day between now and launch (about what I play in tanks as an active player, though warplane matches last for less time on average), and get around $40 worth of gold. Play just 7 games a day and get about $20 worth of gold. 2.5 games a day gets you about $10 of gold.

That is doubly awesome since it can be used both in WoT and WoWp.

And if you play both like me, don’t forget the preorder packages, which are currently the cheapest way to get gold and premium time. The Heavy package gives you a year of premium and over $30 in premium (and a tier 5 premium aircraft) for what you normally pay for just the year of premium. The smaller packages are likewise great deals.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on my battle count. As it stands right now, I’m doing pretty good – 52% win rate and 16 “Ace” medals in 701 matches with a 1.28 K/D ratio. And those numbers would be higher if I didn’t keep leaving behind my excellent fighters to rake in the free tokens being handed out for destroying ground attack targets!

And best of all? I crossed that 700 battle mark last night with the best wingman a guy could ask for, my brother! Having returned to the world of reliable internet, we paired up to dominate the skies last night.

So Wargaming, challenge accepted. I think when launch rolls around you will be paying out a lot of gold to folks like me, but, what the hay, let the good times roll.

ETA: Apparently the challenge was too difficult for Wargaming – it has been postponed until further notice due to unnamed “issues.” More than one person has speculated that the issue is the Mother Russia office calling and saying “holy s**t that’s a lot of gold we’re giving out, no deal.” And that speculation is because it has been confirmed that this event is not planed for EU or RU servers either one.

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!

The Quest to 700: A Quarter of the Way There

The grind to 700 battles in the surprisingly good World of Warplanes Open Beta continues. And I have passed the quarter way mark:

shot_014

Those battles plus the prerecorded 19 in Closed Beta get me to the 175 mark. 525 to go!

I have been curious – with the shift to primary focus on mouse and keyboard controls, and simplification of the HUD, how long time flight sim people like myself would fair. Sure its fun – but will my skills translate. Well, its an admittedly small sample size, but it seems they do. Even playing pretty aggresively to get through battles faster, I have racked up a nice Win Rate and kill tally. I’ve also pulled down 3 Ace medals (5+ kills in a match), the equivalent of the difficult and rare Top Gun in WoT. Two of those games came in my childhood favorite, the A6M Reisen (better known in America as the “Zero” appropriately enough), which relies on incredible maneuverability at the cost of everything else (small health, lower firepower, slower speed). Its a hallmark of what I have always enjoyed in games like Their Finest House, The “Aces Over…” series, and SWOTL. The last was in the Bf 109B, and honestly, its because of that tier thing. I was the tier four in a match with mostly three’s and two’s, and the cannons on the “jack of all trades” Messerschmidt made short work of those two’s.

The other real joy has been the Russian series of ground attack aircraft, which are big and slow and hit hard – dropping bombs is a nice change of pace from the aerial dogfight scene, not to mention that some of the endgame attack aircraft are just…well, fun looking.

Like the Igor here…and yes, its called that for exactly that character and its uncanny resemblance to him…

More as it develops, but…I’m still loving it. Even having to grind out 32 games a day.

Sniffing Out the WoWp Tester Reward Planes

So I have been curious as to what the rewards planes might be. Players need 700 battles and I’m wrestling with whether or not its worth the time to get them. I think it probably is though. Every time I pull out my WoT reward and preorder tanks, I get a lot of comments and favorable reaction. But in the WoWp preorder bundles there is a disclaimed that those planes may be put back into the shop after 1 years time – different from the WG preorder bundles which were designated as unique for all time.

So if I want the same fun factor (and lets face it – chance to get ego-stroked in game in the future), I need those 700 battles. Supposedly I only played 19 games before Open Beta – but I firmly believe that total does not include my Alpha battles. I played a good chunkc of battles in Alpha, and even got a hold of a joystick so I could test that out as well. I could see 19 being for my closed beta run, which was a brief two day stay to confirm that nothing had changed (at the time). In any case, its all I have to go off of, and my math tells me I need to grind 32 games a day between now and release to hit 700. Tough, but doable. Certainly better than the 50 a day I needed to hit 1000 games in WoT, though in this case the heads up came further out. So 50 a day for 6 days was probably easier than 32 a day for 21 days. Activate grind mode.

So what are we grinding for? Well, Wargaming says that people “will have access for up to three unique tester aircraft (the specifics of which will remain a secret for now). Suffice to say that these planes herald from the Soviet, German, and American branches of aviation development, two of them are fighters, and one is a ground attack aircraft.” My immediate guess is that you get one aircraft per phase (Alpha, Closed Beta, Open Beta). I could be wrong, but I am going to work off that assumption.

In addition, Wargaming has also hinted that these planes are already in the game (“…we can’t say what they are yet, but you’ll enjoy them, and might be enjoying some of them already *hint hint*”). So let’s see what we have, shall we? Lets start with the clearest one:

wowp1

So those are the current Soviet Premium Aircraft. We can eliminate the two fighters, because one of the reward planes is Ground attack, and Soviets are the only group that has access to those planes at the moment. Somewhat like arty in WoT (down to the brown icons) these guys carry lots of ordinance and big guns, but are bad at air-air, unless you can cat the enemy head on or flying in a straight line, in which case your guns will make short work of them. Like in WoT, anything other than a Light fighter is tier 2 and up.

The tier 1 premium immediately sticks out. WoT has no tier 1 premiums. And the idea of a dedicated seal-clubber (ie, making short work of new/unskilled players) is somewhat repugnent, but it becomes less so if you consider that as a reward plane there will be a) very few of them and b) a solid warning to other players that something is up with *that* guy. As an attack plane its a great seal-clubber though – new players tend to go head on, as its easiest, and this would make short work of anything at tier 1 with somewhere between 2 and 3 times the DPS of other tier ones. There are some other reasons too – the low tier regular attack planes are difficult to fly, so a tier 4 premium would be very desirable. And really thats the only other choice since the 3 is a preorder (see below).

Now it gets harder. Lets look at the US planes:

wowp2

Now, when WG said the other two were fighters, does that include carrier-based? Probably, given that technically the Soviet ones are Attack Aircraft, not “ground attack” – so there is some imprecision on the exact naming conventions. Here I think we can eliminate the tier 5 preorder (the XFL-1) because handing players a “reward” that some of them have already spent $100 to obtain would be rage inducing, and WG enjoys that, but not when money is one the line (and this game needs money, which means it needs happy players). That said – my guess then becomes the 2PA-L.

It could be the tier 2 carrier plane – but if so, we have no premiums to train carrier based US crews with – and that is going to be a popular line. Tier 4 is a little high for a reward plane, when $100 gets you a tier 5, but I think its a real possibility. Also since it has a two person crew – nobody will actually *buy* this for crew training anyway, not with the XP-77 being so close in price. So its a bit of a fun oddball plane. Perfect for a reward craft.

Last but not least – the German planes:

wowp3

Again we can toss out the preorder and probably the heavy fighter as well. It runs parallel to the rest of the line and would make sense as a crew trainer and good sell. And if we do that we are left with the tier 2 and the tier 5. My only angle on this is that if the tier 5 fighter is for sale, this would be each of the big three a tier 5 premium fighter. Not to mention that as it was an alternative to the Bf109 series in real life, it will fly much like the main line does. The tier 2 on the other hand, the Stosser, is a unique parasol wing and a harkening back to the beginning of the Luftwaffe. A fitting reward plane.

The only other question is who gets what. It could be an ascending reward – the tier 1 for Open Beta, the tier 2 for Closed and the tier 4 for Alpha. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but it makes sense because then you don’t take away the market for those tier 5 premiums (since there would be a lot fewer of them than if you gave them to all the Open Beta people) at the start of the game, leading to more sales and money. Open and Closed people might complain – but its hard to complain with WG has given you a dedicated seal-clubber at tier 1 for launch, to take advantage of players who did not do any testing. Open peeps get a leg up right out of the gate, Closed peeps get a unique historical plane as a souvenir, and Alpha peeps get a solid premium that will get them some credits but isn’t useful for training in the long term.

Seems to make a lot of sense. So, set the clocks, bury the time capsule. And come back in three weeks to see if I was right.

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.

A Very Late 2012 Predictions Review

It dawned on my today that I never reviewed my 2012 predictions.  Probably because I decided not to do them for 2013, and promptly hid from myself the fact that I had done them last year.   But what the heck, after yesterday’s deep trip down memory lane, something light is called for.

 

1) FunCom will be FunCom…they will release a conceptually brilliant game long before it is ready, and oblivious to whether or not they have enabled their target audience to consume it

 

Well, The Secret World was clearly made for a certain target audience, and I would certainly consider the genre-bending TSW a conceptually brilliant game.  And they released it before it was ready.  None of this is surprising, and this counts as mostly a hit.  But…I think they did a great job prepping us for what kind of game it was and how it was going to play out.   This is a niche game and that was pretty clear in all counts, from the setting itself to the way characters were built, to the investigation and puzzle quests you encountered early on.  The only real headscratcher is why it wasn’t F2P to begin with –  I guess they needed a cash influx.  And I’m surprised they have not embraced more of the successful F2P options from other games – TSW would be the perfect game to introduce something like STO’s lockboxes or TOR’s cartel packs into.  But maybe scoring the latest pair of hotpants for your virtual Barbie doll is the most lucrative way to go.  How should I know?

 

2) Guild Wars will ship to much acclaim and joy, and find its niche…and then promptly fall off the radar, as people complete is PvE campaign in the course of a week and are left with nothing but hardcore PvP or the next $50 box drop.

 

Yes and no…GW2 apparently anticipated this and has made moves to put some emphasis and elbow grease into their dungeon system.  The end result seems to have pleased some people.  I’m not sure how big of a slice of the PvP pie its taking though.   I can’t imagine its all that much, or games like Darkfall and Camelot Unchained (or Defiance and PlanetSide 2 for that matter) would probably be crying and shaking their fists.  Still, I gotta call this one a miss.  There is plenty of PvE space to explore and the game is reasonably healthy – not to mention it is arguably a bigger success than its predecessor.

 

3) World of Warplanes Beta will come winging our way at some point during the year.  My guess is that it will not be nearly the success that World of Tanks has been.  Primarily because the inclusion of joystick support indicates that the basic keyboard controls are going to be awkward, and lets face it, that’s what most people use.  Again..that whole “know your target audience” mentality.

 

I actually have been in WoW since Alpha – it just took me awhile to find the invitation in my spam box.  :-p  And we are still under NDA, so I can’t tell you anything about this prediction really.

 

In other, completely unrelated news, I am considering downloading War Thunder.

 

ETA:  The NDA was actually dropped a few days ago and I missed it.   So I can be less subtle now – World of Warplanes is a mess.  It can’t decide if it wants to be an arcade shooter or a flight sim, and the parts of the World of Tanks model that were “adopted” in are problematic as well.   End result – people who came for arcade are frustrated, people who came for a flight sim are bored, and people who came from WoT are quickly in over their head.  Sign up and give it a try for yourself, but for my two cents, its a crash and burn.

ETA AGAIN: Turns out, they manage to fix World of Warplanes at the 11th hour, and I freaking love it. Who knew?

 

4) Dawntide may not survive another year.

It didn’t.  The website is still up but the game is all but dead.  Its a shame too, it was a very well designed sandbox.  I would have loved to live in it a while.

5) Sony will find a new flagship.  They have to, right?  I’m shocked that Everquest 3  took so long to get off the ground, even in whispered rumor form.  To be the advance they want it to be will require a full development cycle, which means we are looking at another 4 years probably before it hits.  So part B is this: I fully expect Sony to pick up distribution rights to ArchAge Online.  They have shown no qualms about bringing other people’s developments into their fold (Vanguard, Pirates of the Burning Sea).  Pairing this with a PlanetSide 2 launch would mean fresh blood in the Sci Fi and Fantasy domains.  That’s not to say that ArchAge comes out way in 2012, but I think it will find a home in this time period (call that part C if you will).

ArcheAge found its home with Trion – a good move and I think AA and Trion both will profit from it (and word is it will hit this year).  Sony let PotBS go, and seems to be relying solely on PS2 as its flagship game these days.  Star Wars – The Clone Wars Adventures (“the other Star Wars MMO”) got a quiet makeover while nobody was looking, and now it really is an MMO instead of just being an ambulated amalgam of minigames.  Much to my son’s chagrin, when he started a new trooper character and had to quickly learn how to shoot his way through droids, follow maps and quest points, and do all this if he wanted to get to some of those minigames that he knows and loves.  Quite honestly, I wonder now if EQ3 will ever see the light of day.   Call me a doubter at this point.  But don’t call that a prediction.  Please?

6)  Titan will lose its codename and we will began to get some information on it.  Quite frankly, my belief is that if you’ve been holding it in your backpocket for over four years, without even giving a hint of what it is, its just as likely rotten eggs as it is a hit.   But I’ll be curious to see what’s been rattling around in the heads of Blizzard and whether or not this is the time to unveil it.

Everything I said about Titan above is what leads me to believe that EQ3 is in the same boat.  The drivel of information is tiny, and both those games have been in development for over a full cycle now.  Entire MMO’s have been conceived, incubated, and birthed in the time that we’ve been waiting for information about these two.  That can’t mean good things, because as I’ve learned over the last few years – if its ready to talk about it, companies will trip over themselves doing so.  And if its not, they will do and say anything to put a sheen over the fact that its ugly as sin or broken as a wagon with square wheels.

Most/Least Anticipated and Biggest Fail.

WildStar still looks terrible – but it didn’t launch in 2012.  And it turned out what became my biggest anticipation became my biggest fail – and its one I haven’t said one peep about.  Mechwarrior Online is terrible.  The game will be good one day, like, a year from now.  But they took money and made promises, and its going to be a long time before they deliver.   And they did a great job getting lots of people to part with their money by promising all sorts of grand things, like launching 8 months ago (the game is still in beta) and giving us tons of mechs (I think they might be up to their original twelve now).   And the game itself?  The UI is so bad  – or rather so nonexistent and uninformative, that you might as well be doing freeform roleplaying  on your neared RPG forums.   You will have no idea what’s wrong, how much armor you have left, why you missed, what your heat level will change by, and where anyone is.   And good luck communicating with your teammates.   Oi.

And Guild Wars 2?   Well, I have no real beef with it.  But I also just can’t seem to get into it.  It bores me.  And I hate that I have to go running back to the capital city every couple of levels for a new storyline quest.   And the races, outside of humans, are fugly and awkward to watch.  Okay, so maybe I have a few things against it, but overall its a good game.  Its just not my cup of tea right now.

Anyway, there is your 1300+ word wall of text for today.   Enjoy.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll have some screenshots to balance it out!

World of Warplanes CBT Is Taking Off

Less than 48 hours remains before the testing population of World of Warplanes gets a significant boost as it shifts gears from Alpha to Beta.   The news release notes that Alpha applicants will have priority over Beta applicants, so those who have been waiting awhile might get some good news this week.

Sadly, I can not give you good news or bad news either one, because as it turns out, Wargaming had need of my services…

For those keeping score, this has been my third Alpha overall, but only my first for Wargaming.  One thing I can say in general is that as a tester now for both this company’s games, Wargaming is a really good developer in terms of listening to player feedback and striving to constantly make a better product.  Other companies would do well to take some notes from them.

Also, I can tell you that I have great sadness that the tech trees as currently published do not include my favorite planes.