Monthly Archives: July 2012

It has been announced that the 7.5 update will go live on the EU server tomorrow, 1st August. We also have the finalised 7.5 patch notes.

Most interestingly for me is the precise detail of the rebalancing of the Tier II and III Tank Destroyers, in particular my wonderful Marder II. The biggest nerf is undoubtedly the reduction in View range by 40m. The reloading time of the gun is also going up, and so is the aim time. On the plus side there is a very modest increase to hit points and speed. However, the damage and penetration of the gun appears to be unaffected.

For me this means the Marder II will be slightly less effective in terms of raw damage output (it will fire slower, and need more time to aim after ceasing movement), but equally should have more weak targets due to the matchmaking changes, and its ability to hurt Tier V vehicles remains intact.

The KV-3 is also getting a hp buff; as is the KV-5, which is also getting a small aiming buff. The M3 Lee is getting a modest buff to view range. None of the tanks I regularly play – except for the Marder II, is getting a change other than to the matchmaking.

I have to say overall I am looking forward to the patch. The new three maps will be interesting to play and new maps are one way of helping to keep the game feel fresh. I am going to have to relearn the Marder II a little, and I am relishing the challenge.

This is just a quick post, referring to something I said in a previous post about the EVE Alliance Tournament. Jester has, now the tournament is over, has written a number of posts about the Tournament. In particular I found this post about the training for the tournament really interesting.

Reading through the post, this is a small list of some of the things I drew out from it.

1) Working on the theory of the competition

2) Logistical preparation for training facilities and the like

3) Studying tape of opponent’s past performances

4) Studying tape of his own team’s past performances

5) Working out team-strategies

6) Practising, for hours and hours

7) Trying to gain information in game-legal methods about opponents

8) Get frustrated with leaders/team-mates due to long hours of practice

9) Make accommodations with family and close friends about the impact of this “game” on one’s non-game life

Really, how is this any different from what any professional sportsman or woman does?

Today, just after I woke up, for the very first time I played with my daughter. The very, very young do not really play. To be sure, they can react and interact, but it does not have the same quality as play. This morning however I woke up with our daughter in her cot beside our bed. She was awake, and making a few sounds as she does that usually signifies she would like some attention. My wife and I spoke to her as we do, and she smiled at us as she has started to do. Then, quite suddenly, she started to kick the wooden bars at the end of her cot. Very soon she was kicking them quite vigorously and smiling, even laughing as she did so.

Inspired, I started to run my fingers along the bars to the side of her cot, making sounds as they hit or scraped the bars. Melian looked at me, smiled, and kicked her legs some more. We made a game of it. It was wonderful. We both laughed and chuckled and smiled.

For the first time, Melian played. An impromptu game, the entire point of which was to have fun.

A very good start to a day.

One of the great things about the Olympics is the sheer variety of different sports on offer, virtually every sort of sport to whet the competitive appetite of any palette. One of the great annoyances of the Olympics are all these great sports being shown at the same time. Not that this dilemma is one the organisers can avoid however.

I rather like this panoply of sport set before us, for us to feast upon. To be sure, there will be many who prefer one or two disciplines to the exclusion of others, and that is absolutely fine and well. There is no “correct” way to watch the Olympics after all. For our part though we have so far managed to switch between channels to get a taste of many varieties of spectacle.

In the last two days we have watched a fair amount of archery, swimming, and equestrian (eventing – dressage stage). We have also watched some tennis, and water polo and badminton; a match of handball and table-tennis; a few runs of canoe slalom and a session each of male and female artistic gymnastics (both male and female); even a brief foray into female weightlifting and male judo – oh, and I almost forgot, a couple of matches of fencing – and several races in sailing.

We are, of course, rooting both the British and Danish squads in this household. It provides extra opportunities for interest, along with occasionally some good-natured rivalry.

Oh, I forgot, we’ve seen some rowing too.

Just the sheer scope and variety of the Olympics never ceases to amaze, and I am glad to report we are making the most of the opportunities here.

The new LOTRO Festival, the Farmer’s Faire, launched a couple of days ago, and today I managed to sample it a few of its offerings.

I have one primary consideration when judging a LOTRO festival, and I realised it ultimately after the anniversary contest in 2011 which was a funless affair due to the token grind. Essentially, how easy is it to get the necessary tokens to acquire some of the major goodies, in particular the horses. The second consideration after that is the quality of the mini-games and tasks one ends up doing to get those tokens.

The Farmer’s Faire passes the first test with flying colours. Although the number of tokens to get the various items sounds quite high (the horse costs 120), after just one day of not doing everything I find myself with over sixty of the required tokens.

That being so, how about the tasks to get those tokens? Well, these come in several varieties. Goldenstar over at Casual Stroll to Mordor has produced a pretty good guide.

In Bywater itself there are various tasks about the market. One of these – reprimanding drunk and disorderly hobbits – doesn’t seem to be working particularly well at the moment, probably due to too many people in the area. That is annoying. More positively, there are a number of gathering quests of items around the area, and some of the “lists” one is following are actually quite funny – for the first time anyway. My favourite bit of this area though is the quest involving Mayor Will Whitfoot, where depending on what he says after he has eaten you have to bring him a particular item. Quite fun, involves a bit of thought, and multiple people appear to be able to play it at once.

Just nearby Bywater are a series of fishing tasks, that all appear to be luck based. Fun enough as an excuse for fishing, and even if you fail the fish can be exchanged for more tokens, so hardly wasted time. After that there are two mini-games, one is collecting various eggs at Sanderson’s farm and the other involves eating mushrooms in Farmer Maggot’s field. I have to say, I rather enjoyed the mushrooms more, but in part this is because I cannot help but think of the start of Lord of the Rings when we encounter Farmer Maggot and his dogs. In both it is possible to get tokens even if one does not “win” (I didn’t complete either game successfully). Finally there are the ordinary horse races, which are one of my favourite things about any of the festivals.

So fun enough. However not, I think, as fun as the regular Summer Festival. That Festival stole my heart in my first year with the hobbit food-racers. I hope we will see it yet this year too.

I am watching the Opening Ceremony. I may or may not have more to say on that another time, but just now the athletes are marching out.

They march out, some in their hundreds, others in just a handful. Three or four marched as independents, one of whom hails from this world’s newest country of South Sudan (which is so new it hasn’t organised an Olympic Committee yet). They march out, many different and differing faces, the whole range of humanity. They come from the farthest north, they come from the utter south. They come from the largest and most settled nations on earth, and yet even the smallest and most troubled also send their sons and daughters. The walk and form a human current, a human stream of the great human sea.

It is marvellous to see.

When you watch the nations march, you get a sense of just how large this world is, just how varied our we who inhabit it.

On just about every face there is a wide smile – though some of the flag-bearers appear to be understandably nervous. One can nevertheless feel the joy through a television screen, the energy is infectious.

I started typing this when Portugal entered the area, South Africa just has been announced, and still they come. What a glorious world we live in.

Tomorrow is the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. The first sporting events have actually taken place (football matches). There has been, in the media (and especially I think in the newspapers) a certain amount of grouching about this upcoming extravaganza. I can only think that the chattering classes are trying to do all they can to stop us enjoying this great event, that is unlikely to come again to this country in my lifetime. Fortunately most folks I speak to, be they great sports enthusiasts or not, seem to be wanting to enjoy the next few weeks in various and varying ways. No moaning there!

It is difficult though to think of the Olympics in London without thinking of the events that took place seven years ago. On July 6th it was announced that London had won the right to host the 2012 Olympics. I do not think it is rose-tinted spectacles and errant memory when I say I remember alot of people, inside and outside of London, myself included, found this is a reason to celebrate.

The next day fifty-two innocent people in London lost their lives in four separate explosions, at the hands of four suicide bombers.

The aims of the bombers were not connected with the Olympics, but in my mind ever since the 2012 Olympics have been irrevocably linked to the actions for those four young men on July 7th, 2005.

The Olympic ideal is easy to scoff at. It is easy to say that the Games have fallen prey to geopolitical strife more than once. The events in Munich in 1972 are still an uncomfortable heritage which I do not think the IOC fully realises, for reasons I do not know. Likewise it is easy to find fault with the “business” side of the games, the commercial sponsorships and the like. In the same vein there is the ever-present doubt it today’s champion but turn out to achieved greatness through illegal means.

I actually agree somewhat with each of those concerns, but ultimately, the Olympic ideal remains. It is an ideal, to be aimed for, and like all ideals is not necessarily achievable, humans being what we are. Paraphrasing G K Chesterton, the Olympic has not been achieved and found wanting, it has been found difficult and thus disparaged.

The Olympics are meant to be a time of coming-together. A time to set aside old and current scores. A time to celebrate humanity’s achievements, and to make allowance for our flaws. At times the Olympics has been bedevilled by geopolitics, and yet, I wonder … perhaps some of the great US/USSR clashes, Cold War by proxy, actually acted as a safety valve, allowing an expression of jingoism and competition in a safe place, while cooler heads could prevail in the realms of armies, navies, and air forces. As Churchill once said, “Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war.”

When I watch the Opening Ceremony tomorrow, I will marvel that so many disparate nations, nations that even today are very unfriendly, are gathering peacefully in one place for something as beautifully mundane and glorious as sport. When I travel to London next Thursday to actually attend an Olympic event, I will get a feeling I always get when visiting London of a global metropolis, yet British city, vibrant and resilient.

I remember a cartoon from 2005. A spectral Hitler was saying to bin-Laden something along the lines of “Don’t bomb Londoners. It doesn’t work. I tried.”

So often nations only seem to gather together in death. Sometimes this is at funerals of the great – just think of the international nature of the funeral of Pope John Paul II the Great. Other times it is of tragedy. A vast number of countries, and people within those countries, in this world have expressed sympathy with the victims of the murderer at the screening of a batman film in the US. I remember, in 2005, at baseball’s All-Star Game the bands played “God Save the Queen”. I watched it and cried. I just found it a shame so few of my countrymen probably realised how, at a very time and place, America mourned with us as we had mourned with them four years previously.

Tomorrow, the world will be gathered for reasons other than death. It is something to celebrate. I intend to do so.

One of the most far-reaching changes coming to World of Tanks in the 7.5 update will be changes to the way the Matchmaker operates. The meat of this change is that the tier spread that one is likely to face will become a lot narrower. Most tanks will now no longer face tanks more than two tiers above them – the primary exception to this being Tier IV light tanks which will continue to see Tier VII tanks in their role as scouts.

Having looked at the new chart (one version of which can be found here), and pondered it for a few days, here are my thoughts on the most notable changes.

Tier I tanks will now see Tier II Tank Destroyers, which they currently do not. Likewise Tier II tanks will see Tier III Tank destroyers, which again they previous did not. I think this is really interesting because currently Tier I and II tanks face a relatively limited number of opposing tanks. The above change means they will be exposed to all sorts of new opponents earlier, and generally I think this is a good thing though I do think it will make those first few battles “harder”. That said, I also think new players in three months time will adapt very nicely. However, Tier II and III tank destroyers are the other beneficiary of this change as it will introduce more targets below then. This is no doubt the reason behind the downward tweaking of these Tank Destroyers, but even though these vehicles will still face Tier IV and V opposition respectively, I think their performance will still be equal.

In the mid-tiers, medium tanks, heavy tanks, and tank destroyers now all only face tanks no more than two tiers above them. This is in comparison to regularly facing tanks 3, or sometimes even 4 tiers above them. Again I view the prime beneficiary of this change to be the tanks in the Tier IV-VII range, as there will be fewer tanks on the battlefield against which they are generally ineffective. The necessary other effect of this change is there will be fewer softer targets for higher-tier tanks, especially the Tier IX and X tanks. However, this should actually make battles far more competitive, and therefore engaging, and will I am sure result in better game experiences all around even though the higher tier tanks might occasionally have less easy stomping.

The situation for Tier IV and V light tanks is almost unchanged, the rationale for scout tanks still existing. I am, I have to say, somewhat less sure of the wisdom of this. It feels to me like World of Tanks does not reward spotting terribly well, making it an easily under-appreciated and unrewarding occupation, something I intend to post on another time. I don’t personally expect the minor tier spread that Tier IV light tanks has will make them any easier to play, though we shall see.

Overall though this is going to very greatly change the nature of many World of Tanks matches. It will be a change that I think will be for the better, but I do not think it will be the panacea that some people in the forums seem to think it will be. Also, there is a sense here of being careful for what one wishes for … if less matchmaking spread leads to much longer wait times for battles I wonder if people will start to complain (though given the number of folks online I don’t seriously expect to be waiting ages for a battle in the ordinary course of events). I am looking forward to them however, even despite the downward adjustment being made to my Marder II. Got to take the rough with the smooth.

You wake up, arrested, on a cart heading towards execution. Your head is on the block, when a dragon lands on the roof of the tower you can see, and the headsman is knocked over.

That is the opening of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and it certainly ranks up there as one of the most effective opening sequences of a roleplaying game I have played. Not quite up there with the slow-long opening sequence of Half-Life 1, or my personal favourite which is the start of Planescape: Torment, but not very far behind. It is, in short, a good beginning to attract and keep the interest of the gamer.

I have, on and off for the last week or so, been playing Skyrim, very often with my daughter asleep on my chest. In this I have been aided by a triangle-shaped cushion which helps stop Melian slipping down, and then she just rests between my outstretched arms. Meanwhile I play in the wonderful knowledge that at the press of a button I can pause the game and pay total attention to her should I require, and that even if I should die in a fight I can just reload my last quicksave.

The game itself is very interesting. I am currently Level 14, playing a warrior-type, so I have mostly just scratched the surface. However, here are my initial thoughts, even though I realise a very great portion of the gaming community experienced Skyrim themselves months ago.

Firstly, in some respects this game is just like EVE. Once you are through the initial tutorial section you are in the wide open world, and what you do next is pretty much up to you. There are plenty of quests, but one can choose to do what one wishes. There is no “need” to complete this or that quest. In some respects, in a fantasy setting, it is actually quite a difficult mind-shift to undertake as most of my fantasy gaming these last few days has been the somewhat more directed MMO themepark variety. However, there is also something wonderful about being freer with one’s destiny.

Secondly, the mechanics of the game are fairly easy. My one particular grievance thus far is no single button to switch between weapons for different situations. I have a little difficult sometimes in a fight with getting “behind” the enemy and leaving myself open to someone attacking me – but this is not the first game of this type where I have had similar problems. Even in MMOs I often find myself “behind” an enemy and needing to turn to continue to fight. Annoying, but hardly Skyrim’s fault.

Visually the game is gorgeous, but does tend to the “colder” landscapes. There is a good sense of space – enhanced I am sure by the fact I am hardly using the swift-travel options, or even horse-travel. This makes the world feel nicely large, and besides, there are so many interesting things to see along the way. I have, however, only explored a relatively few places.

Likewise I cannot complain about the stories I have thus far encountered. I have been quite nicely entertained, sometimes by very small details like overheard conversations, or minor conversation choices that spawn a small, yet diverting side-quest.

There is so much more of this world to explore however, and so many more stories to experience. My initial impression is clearly very positive, I only hope I do not get disappointed as I go.


Few tanks in World of Tanks attract as much hate and ire as the M3 Lee. The Pz 38na and AMX 40 are the two which most regularly spring to mind, perhaps alongside the A-20.

The complaints against the M3 Lee are many, but they cluster around just a few points. That the gun one has in World of Tanks is the hull-mounted one, and cannot traverse (making it more like a Tank Destroyer). That it is so tall and the gun is so low in the tank one basically cannot adopt a “hull-down” position, and more generally just makes a large target for enemies to shoot at. That it is not well armoured, and also that its gun is simply not very good.

I started to play the M3 Lee following my time in the M2 MT. It is basically a Tier IV medium tank. As it happens I have recently watched a few documentaries about World War 2, several of which repeated some of these same criticisms, especially regarding the mounting of the gun and its size.

To be fair, these are not totally without merit. The size especially does make a good target as I know very well from having shot at it many times, and it does prevent some common tank tactics. It makes the tank difficult to hide if trying to play it more like a Tank Destroyer. It is, quite simply, a drawback. It was in real life and it is in the game. This combines with armour that is decidedly average to poor for its tier and easily ignored by higher tier tanks. Only 310hp means they will also often one-shot you.

The gun is more of a mixed story, I find. Certainly against Tier VI and VII tanks, which the M3 Lee sometimes finds itself facing, it is utterly useless. Against Tier V tanks it very much depends on the situation. Against tanks of its own tier and below it is actually pretty good, and it has one quality often overlooked: rate of fire. Upgraded and without equipment it can pump out 20 shots/minute, and at a theoretical damage of over 100/shot, its damage output can be pretty reasonable. There is a downside to this gun however, and it is my pet peeve about this tank: the recoil is just massive. One basically needs to re-aim after each shot, and I actually think the rate of fire is, if anything, too fast to allow decent shooting. That said, there are times when that high rate of fire is very useful it out-firing an opponent.

The fact that gun is fixed I do not automatically count as a disadvantage – after all I very often play Tank Destroyers. Annoyingly the interface doesn’t recognise the tank destroyer aspects of this tank meaning it is harder to judge one’s firing arc. Thankfully one can lock one’s tracks like in a TD. I think alot of the hate for this is probably related to the fact the M3 Lee is classed as a medium tank, even if that is not how it plays. That said, the low-position of the gun compared to the size of the tank, as above, is a hindrance.

I have been killed by the M3 Lee often enough not to count this tank as being useless. It is not as bad as is often claimed. That does not however make it an excellent tank. The match-maker often is not your friend. Some tanks still fare fairly well when faced by higher tier tanks, and can still contribute in various ways. The situation for the M3 Lee is bleaker.

In higher tier matches, one is essentially cannon fodder. If the tier spread includes a lot of Tier IV tanks it may not be completely useless, but otherwise one’s most role is probably artillery defence against opposing light tanks. In a Tier V match however one can often be more involved, though one should be playing a more supportive role with the Tier V heavies. In Tier IV matches however this tank can rule the battlefield. With the narrowing of the matchmaking Tiers coming in 7.5 it is likely indeed there will be fewer high tier matches.

I have fully upgraded my M3 Lee now, and am now aiming to unlock the other tanks, in particular the M4 Sherman and T1 HT. I can also unlock the M7 Priest, but whether I undertake that will likely depend on how the 7.5 changes play out in reality.