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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Way back when I started playing World of Tanks there were only three skills a crew could train after learning their main qualification (commander, driver etc.) and these were Camouflage, Repair, and Firefighting. Then in (I think) 7.2 – it was fairly soon after I had started playing – the number of skills was massively expanded. One of these was the Mentor skill, which is associated with the Commander. Essentially it allows other crew members to acquire experience at a faster rate – 10% faster when fully trained.

Initially I had a number of commanders start the Mentor skill. My decision in doing so was informed by my experience of learning skills with EVE where there was a simple trade-off – time of skill learned versus gain. In EVE learning skills creating a lot of heartache, and eventually CCP did away with them. For the record I trained them all to 5, knowing that particularly with the Charisma skills I was unlikely ever to recoup the time taken up in training.

In EVE the time taken up in training (when one could have been training something else) was basically the only ‘negative’ of the learning skills. In World of Tanks though I have come to the conclusion there is a much higher cost. It is a relatively simple thing, and in a sense I am embarrassed I did not consider it sooner.

In World of Tanks the amount of experience for each skill takes twice as much as the previous skill. In practical terms for me, this means that most of my crews that are learning skills are still working on the first skill after the major qualification. I have three tanks currently working on the second skill, and one on the third. That means that for the majority of my tanks the Mentor skill – which gives no ingame impact – is taking up a slot that could have a significant performance increase in my gameplay. This is particularly true because there are some very tempting skills a Commander can train instead of the Mentor skill.

So I have bitten the bullet, and retrained all my commanders that had the skill and replaced it with something else. For my Marder II commander I used gold (half-price at the moment, and my last 100 gold) as recently my Marder II crew has already and a skill re-train and lost some progress as a result, and I didn’t want him to be hit a second time. For everyone else however it was a credit retrain. Mostly I have replaced it with the Recon skill – but not exclusively. My Hummel commander is now learning Sixth Sense, and my KV-1 commander now has Eagle Eye (which is something of a test in and of itself to see how that works – I may retrain him to something else yet).

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As a new father I have been dreading certain events for when they first happen. Prominent amongst them was the first time we are unable to catch Melian when she slips and/or falls. I say “was” because this afternoon it happened for the first time – sitting next to her on our sofa, and she doing a forwards lurch that I was unable to prevent. Suddenly she is on the floor, screaming.

Fortunately she took no major damage, I think mostly her screams were from the shock as much from the pain. Not an hour later she was laughing and happy, and reaching out her arms to me wanting a cuddle.

Cuddles which I desperately need because I do feel very cut-up about it. After all, if I had been a moment or two quicker to react … well, such things cannot be taken back. I feel a little like a part of her innocence has been lost.

Actually there is part of me is slightly proud. With Melian screaming, and being held by my wife, I very nearly went totally inert as the emotion washed over me. As with many Aspergic people I am not always able to process emotions very effectively, and they can overwhelm me. My wife said to me something like “stay with it” or “keep it together” – and somehow I was able to do so. Once she had started to settle a little, and had started to feed, I cried. Cried out at the hurt of feeling like a failure for being unable to protect my daughter. There is no shame in that – just goes to show how much I  do indeed care for my Melian. Nevertheless I was able to function throughout. It came close, but I did it. Rather than be an additional burden for both my wife and daughter I went and got Melian’s favourite toy and helped distract her with it, which helped settle her.

Ultimately a fall was always going to happen sometime. This will not the last either. We have been fortunate the first had no great harm, and at least the first time is over. While it may not make subsequent occasions easier, precisely, at least now I know for certain I can cope without having a panic attack. That is an amazingly comforting thing to know.

I am not going to do a full special post for the various specials that have been ongoing during the Christmas and New Year period, mostly because I missed the start of it all being on holiday and most of what I would write would be utterly irrelevant. I will just say that I think the holiday offers have been very good indeed.

Through the good graces of my brother I was able to get some tanks at a discount however: The Tiger P, the S-35 CA, the SU-85B, and the VK3601H. Subsequently I also bought the SU-18 though not at a discount (I had run out of garage slots and didn’t feel it was fair to my brother to ask him to rejig my garage, and besides, it is not like a Tier II tank costs all that much).

I have started playing the S-35 CA and the SU-85B immediately. The Tiger P is awaiting me to also acquire the Panzer VI Tiger itself, as I wish to compare those two tanks more or less as I play them. The VK3601H is awaiting my decision on the Panzer IV – if I do sell the Panzer IV I will start using that crew in this tank. If not it will have to wait until I have finished with the VK3001H (this could mean a very long time until I am playing the Tiger P). The SU-18 I will be starting imminently.

Currently I am taking advantage of the final element of the holiday specials – a x5 experience on the first victory of the day for each vehicle – to push along some research and some crew training, though focusing on the research. Apart from anything it has proved a good way to get through a lot of the tanks in my garage as a welcoming home sort of party, as it were. In other words, I am having fun.

Meanwhile right now there is also a 50% discount on equipment (which I have taken advantage of for the new tanks and also adding Coated Optics to my Panzer III and VK1602 Leopard), and also for consumables (meaning I have stocked up on the regulars). I am also considering acquiring more Binocular Telescopes and another Toolbox – this would give me a complete second set of the removable equipment (I already have a second Camo Net) to allow me greater flexibility when I exit a battle to play on another tank.

It is currently the Yule Festival in LOTRO right now. In terms of what there is to do there is nothing new from last year, but in terms of how it is organised it has changed, and in a way that seems to imply further festivals are going to be changed as well. Hitherto each Festival has had its own associated token. Certain Festival activities have been restricted to a limited number of events per day by another token system (you would get one or two tokens free per day) with more tokens purchasable from the store. For this festival however the Yule Festival Tokens have been changed to simply “Festival Tokens” – clearly a common currency that is going to be shared between all festivals. The special tokens have also been made generic. Finally with each festival there has also been a final set of tokens that one could earn in the “horse raises” (essentially time trials around a course) and you had to get two of these tokens, plus some regular tokens, to get the festival horse. These tokens have also been done away with and any existing also converted to the new regular festival token.

The Yule Festival mostly centres around the town of Frostbluff, basically its own small instanced area. The town has its own little storyline and feels to me like a poorly-done faux-Dickensian world. Indeed, I would go slightly further and say it feels like a very American faux-Dickensian world poorly done. Generally I spend as little time there as possible, and in previous years I have been able to get the various tokens I needed for any Festival items I wanted in a series of quests present in the general world. Lots of people had fun in Frostbluff (from all over the world) and I had fun outside getting the festival horse, which is always my primary aim each festival.

This Yule Festival they have changed the way one gets the horse. Now there is a deed which is associated with doing the quests in Frostbluff, and it has three tiers. Each Tier awards a some “Golden Festival Token” and along with regular Festival Tokens these are required for the new horse. In other words, I am forced to do stuff in Frostbluff. I am not amused.

Moreover there are a couple of items which require one to complete all three tiers of the deed, which is not difficult per se but since the Frostbluff quests are daily quests does require putting in the days. The Yule Festival of course occurs over Christmas and New Year, a time when many players will almost certainly be unable to put in the time due to other commitments (such as me going away to see the in-laws). The new special festival tokens can be used to unlock the daily quests to run a second time, but there is no “free” way of acquiring them this festival, they must be purchased from the store.

So essentially I find myself forced to quest in Frostbluff, and if I want to be able to use certain rewards to have to pay real money to do so because, by design, it is only meant to be accomplished if one can quest for the majority of the possible days of the festival.

The last of these is annoying, but ultimately only works me up so much. I mean, Turbine is a company after all and it needs to make money. This is a way to do so. What drives me up the wall, however, is being forced to quest in Frostbluff to get the horse. Fortunately I only need to do one more night’s activities and I believe I will have enough tokens to get the hose, but damned do I dislike it.

 

Well, not quite. However, the 8.3 update (1st public test patch notes) has simply two major features – the initial Chinese tech tree, and an across-the-board artillery nerf.

There is no extra information as to what changes have been made to the Chinese tanks since their last outing on the test server. Along with the tanks we will get an extra free garage slot with the Tier I vehicle. I am not particularly exciting by the prospect of Chinese tanks. I may just advance in the low tiers, but I do not expect to devote much time to Chinese tanks at all. Mostly they will just be targets.

The artillery changes are unexpected. There are in fact two changes to arty, one of which has already been implemented on the Russian server and is going to hit the EU server tomorrow. This is essentially a cap on the number of artillery in a given match. The update says this set to 5 per side, but in Silentstalker’s thread on the EU forum it appears there is going to be some sort of rolling cap (some matches having a cap of 2, others 3, others 4, and others 5). This is not a problem at the lower or mid tier matches particularly, but apparently at higher tiers (especially Tier X matches) one can get truly massive arty parties (7+ SPG per side). In my Tier VIII tanks I have never seen anything like that – but I will say the average number of arty does seem to increase with tier. From a few things I have read on the forums I get the feeling the situation has worsened since the change to matchmaking was introduced in the 7.5 update. I think by reducing the number of battle tiers it has had the side effect of concentrating high-tier SPGs into fewer possible match-ups. Also SPGs only go up to Tier VIII (with Tier VIII SPGs acknowledged to be roughly the equivalent of Tier X vehicles of other types). Apparently at some point the SPG lines will be stretched out to make them resemble the other lines more closely, and hopefully this will also relieve some of the top-tier pressure.

However, all that is not strictly speaking part of the 8.3 update. Instead in 8.3 what appears to be going on is an across-the-board artillery nerf and rebalance.The most obvious element of the nerf is what appears to be a HP nerf to every SPG in the game. SPGs never had all that many hit points to begin with, and how most of them can be expected to be one-shotted by most top-tier opponents.

Beyond that it gets a little more complicated. Many SPGs had their movement performance nerfed, but not all (the SU-26 is one that gets increased manoeuvrability from this update). Some SPGs have had their ability to have any gun depression reduced if not totally eliminated. This means that “TD-mode” – or direct firing – becomes that much tricker if not impossible at close range. Many arty – but again not all – have had their dispersion on the move or by hull movement increased. Basically there is a whole lot of changes – and generally much more negative than positive.

I have (for my sins) read through the (as of writing) 25 page thread on the EU forum, and there is a lot of upset. Frankly, I understand where that comes from, as many SPG players feel that Wargaming our responding to various folk who complain long and loudly about being nailed by artillery, when the problem with the overprofileration of high-Tier SPGs (which many arty players themselves acknowledge) is not directly addressed by these nerfs.

I say not directly addressed but I think part of Wargaming’s logic runs like this: make SPGs harder to play by nerfing them should equate to fewer people playing artillery, which should equate to fewer matches overstuffed with artillery. The “problem” with that view, as I see it, is that artillery are already the least-played form of vehicle in World of Tanks. By making them less likely to be played fewer players are likely to have tried out SPGs themselves, which generally will make them poorer overall players as they will have less knowledge of arty-safe spots on the map (which arty players get to know very well in frustration). The complainers will therefore likely still see SPGs as overpowered because they never learn how best to make the terrain and buildings work to one’s advantage in avoiding or minimising the damage that arty can do.

I also think there is a legitimate concern that by making many SPGs less manoeuvrable it will become far easier to counter-battery. This is only one that will be become plain by testing, but I do not hold much faith in Wargaming to be able to manage this aspect properly.

Overall however it is plain that SPGs have been rebalanced to be generally more vulnerable on the battle-field. The game will change as a result, and I feel it is this and not the Chinese tanks which is the defining characteristic of this update.

It will not stop me playing them, however. Ever since I got my first “Tank tears” with someone accusing me of using gold ammo I have been itching to cause more ire. Still being an effective SPG player post-8.3 seems like an excellent way to do this.

Currently I am whiling away a few hours until it is time for us to get on a train and start the lengthy journey back home. There was a time – before my wife moved to England – when I would desperately try to stretch out the last few hours before the homeward journey. I am sure all those partners who have endured long periods of separation can understand that one (and even plenty of people who have been fortunate enough not to be in that situation). Now however I am feeling well sated with Christmas cheer and it feels like a perfect opportunity to reflect on the last few days.

I have been looking forward to this holiday for some time, but also have been a little nervous. After all, Christmas in another country means Christmas with different traditions. Add in the fact that I have great difficulty comprehending spoken Danish and a severely limited ability to speak Danish and I was expecting more than a few awkward moments. There were none, which I partially attribute to the fact that my Danish is getting slowly better, but mostly to the fact that my in-laws are truly wonderful people who have been very welcoming to this unexpected Englishman who has joined their lives. Also, thankfully, lots of Danes speak English (though this is not so true of the generation of my parents-in-law and older).

So what are the main differences? Well firstly that the “big event” actually takes place on Christmas Eve and not on Christmas Day itself. I understand lots of places on the Continent do this, but for me it was a first. Rather than turkey, duck is the traditional bird of the day – and since I am not so fond of turkey and am very fond of duck this was fine. No Christmas pudding either, which is slightly strange, but in its stead there was risalamande (and my svigemor’s risalamande is the bestest risalamande in the world). In atmosphere, well, it does feel a little different, but I am not quite sure how to qualify this. Perhaps a little more communal, perhaps a little more exuberant – things that might very well be more down to the differences between families than the differences between cultures.

This is also, of course, our first Christmas as our new family, with Melian being the absolute star of the show. Anyone who says that a six-month old baby cannot understand the joy of the Christmas – well, they are wrong. She has been so happy, and has become so involved. Watching her has been a pure delight. It is not just the opening of presents, but the fun of a Christmas Disney show on the telly, of seeing other people being happy (nothing brings a smile more readily to her face than other people smiling), and joy of doing special things – most notably being allowed to get up again late one night to spend more time with us. She knew this was a special treat – you could see it in her face – and it was special for us too.

Melian has also been a generally good traveller. While I am sure some six-month year olds must have great trouble with planes and trains, Melian’s curious nature has meant she spent the greater part of the trip in a sense of wonderment. Take an airport (in this case Heathrow Terminal 5). I think once you get to a certain age most airports start to feel much the same – some are larger or more glamorous, but at the end of the day they are all just airports. To Melian however it was a place with so many exciting new sounds and smells and things to see – I hope she is able to delay the onset of familiar contempt for as long as possible because truly it was a wonder to see her wonder in her eyes.

For me, therefore, Christmas has been a wonderful time. I do not have a to return to work until just after the New Year, and will be doing a couple of family events back in home in England when we get back. However, as Gank points out in this great post, Christmas is not something everyone is properly in a position to celebrate, for one cause or another. The thing is, sometimes the smallest of efforts can have the greatest of impacts. Just a Christmas card through the door of a lonely neighbour, or a kind word to the shop assistant or barstaff manning the holiday shifts, can make a big difference.

All the best
stnylan / Lewis