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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sometime last week in on Silentstalker’s blog For the Record, in one of his daily translations, I read that the mechanism for fire extinguishers is about to undergo a change, or more specifically what is going to change are the mechanics of fire extinguishers.

To recap briefly how things work at the moment. Sometimes when your tank gets hit in certain modules there is a chance of a fire starting. If a fire does start, an Automatic Fire Extinguisher (which is the premium gold consumable) automatically kicks in immediately and puts the fire out. Being a premium consumable it also comes with a bonus that reduces the chance of a fire actually starting. The Manual Fire Extinguisher (the regular credit consumable) does not have this bonus. Also, whenever one catches fire on has to manually hit a key to get it to work. If one is fast this can operate very quickly indeed, so that one only takes one “tick” of damage, and therefore becomes almost as good as the premium version.

The change is to make Manual Fire Extinguishers also automatic, but to make them take longer to operate than the premium version. How much longer is not known. The firefighting skill may be amended to make these new regular extinguishers start sooner, probably in addition to the current functions of that skill. This change is slated to occur when premium consumables are made available for credits as the same ratio as premium ammo (1 gold = 400 credits, so a premium consumable priced at 50 gold can be purchased for 20k credits).

The day after the translation in which this was announced Silentstalker translated that the official reason for the change was the elimination of auto-clicker macros. These are clearly something that Wargaming regards as cheating, and have decided to change a game mechanic to stop them from working. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that – indeed I can think of at least one game (EVE Online) where changing game mechanics have been a very efficient method of disrupting and/or stopping various forms of cheating (chronicled in loving detail by The Nosy Gamer). I am also sure this is at least part of the reason for the change – indeed it may even be the catalyst. However, I can think of at least one other reason, the bête noir of players: balance.

To put it plainly, currently Automatic Fire Extinguishers are underpowered compared to the premium Large Repair Kit and Large First Aid Kit, or perhaps more accurately the “gap” between Automatic Fire Extinguishers and Manual Fire Extinguishers is too small given players can activate Manual Fire Extinguishers very quickly even without a macro. Compare the Fire Extinguishers to Repair Kits and First Aid Kits, which are the other two consumables they most closely resemble. Both premium Large Kits and Large Repair Kits give an analogous bonus just like Automatic Fire Extinguishers do, and likewise the regular variants do not. The chief difference between both First Aid and Repair premium and regular consumables however is that the regular variants only repair/heal one module or crew-member, whereas the premium version repairs/heals all modules or crewmembers. Particularly in the latter half of the game, where tanks can absorb much more punishment and take on a lot more damage, it is easily possible to have several modules damaged and destroyed, or several crewmembers incapacitated (especially if one has just survived a late-tier SPG hit). However, there is no way that human or artificial effectiveness can make the regular consumables repair more than one module, or heal more than one crewmember. Now in some battles this difference between regular and premium variants will not be so pronounced, some battles only one module is damaged or one crewmember hit. The same is true of Fire Extinguishers, sometimes the added speed of the Automatic Fire Extinguishers really is immaterial – either because the battle is effectively over one way or other, or because you are about to be destroyed even without the added hassle of the fire. However, for those situations where the difference between regular and premium is significant, Manual Fire Extinguishers can be almost as effective at putting out fires, whereas Small Repair Kits and Small First Aid Kits can never aspire to be as effective as their premium counterparts.

The other way to look at it is that in both Small Repair Kits and Small First Aid Kits the player has to make a choice of what to repair or heal, but he has no impact on the effectiveness of the module. In Manual Fire Extinguishers player skill determines how effective they are. This change takes away that element of player skill, making Manual Fire extinguishers more similar to Small Repair Kits and Small First Aid Kits, and increases the comparative advantage of the premium Automatic Fire Extinguisher.

Now, from the comment threads on the above posts I rather get the impression this change is going to annoy quite a lot of people, and I can quite see why. Their gameplay is going to suffer, and control is being taken away. That is never pleasant. However, I am going to go out on a limb here and say I have no particular problem with this. It is like any balance nerf – these are not nice, and one does not have to enjoy having your favourite tank nerfed – but they are necessary for game balance. Also this change is being introduced when the premium version becomes accessible by credits. That means to get that better performance one will no longer have to use real money. If the Fire Extinguisher change was occurred before the switch to credit-purchasable premium consumables I would be more aggrieved. As it is, I think for most players this should be a very manageable transition.

This change will mean a change in how I equip my tanks (as it should for everyone who uses consumables). To begin with I will cease using Fire Extinguishers on lower-tier vehicles. Currently in most cases they don’t live long enough to use a Manual Fire Extinguisher anyway, and this will become less likely in the future. I will probably end up putting on a Large Repair Kit or, less likely, a Large First Aid Kit instead – not to use but to benefit from the bonus. In mid-late Tier vehicles I play very often I probably will end up swapping out the Manual Fire Extinguishers for Automatic Fire Extinguishers. I do not, in all honestly, expect to use all that many. I find I don’t catch fire all that often, all things considered. Individual tanks though I may choose to put a Large Repair Kit in its place – perhaps higher tier light tanks or SPGs, again to benefit from the bonus (though this time they might also sometimes be used). I do not, in all honesty, see me using many Manual Fire Extinguishers after this change – with one proviso – it all depends on how long the delay is, and if/how the Firefighting skill ends up impacting this.

Regardless my purchasing strategy for premium consumables will be the same as is my strategy for regular consumables – stock up when they are on offer. Presuming the usual 50% discount it will cost 10,000 credits per premium consumable. Expensive, but if I am reckoning on using an Automatic Fire Extinguisher once every 10-15 battles (which feels about right) that cost will easily be defrayed by earnings. That points out a further impact of this change – it will suck some credits out of the game, causing folks to play more battles in the mid-tiers to get credits. Hardly the worst thing.

I do wonder though how many people will not read the patch notes and be surprised by this change when it occurs (probably 8.5). There might be some amusing tears for a few days afterwards.

 

They are not doing a specific Easter special this year on the EU apparently – presumably my memory mixed up Easter and the anniversary specials of last year. All the same the offer this weekend – it runs the usual Saturday morning to Tuesday morning – is quite a cracker, and all focused on lower tier Tanks.

To start off with everything else: the other main aspect of this offer, from my perspective, is double crew experience for every battle. Always a great item, especially given how much experience it takes to grind out the third crew skill. There is also a 50% discount on all camouflages, which I probably will not use as this has come up quite recently and I already put permanent camos on a handful of tanks. The medal involved this week is the Sniper medal, each one will net six thousand credits. The Sniper medal is the easiest to get, so it makes sense the credit bonus is correspondingly small.

Now onto the meat of the offer, a 100% credit earning bonus to every regular light, medium, and heavy Tier III and Tier IV tank. Double credits on a total of twenty-eight different tanks (assuming I have not miscounted). Do note that tank destroyers and SPGs are not included in this, and neither are premium tanks. If you wish for a bit of nostalgia I highly recommend throwing a few credits at an old favourite or two – given this offer it should be quite easy to make the credits back. Either that or take any Tier IIIs or IVs in the garage out for a spin, which is what I am intending to do. Or perhaps even purchase a new tank.

There are lots of Tier III and IV tanks I have yet to play, but quite a number that I have. I will be making good use of the Panzer III during the offer, as it offers fast gameplay with considerable potential for both gank and tank. It makes some somewhat nostalgic for the M3 Lee as well, as that thing can pack a mighty punch. Unfortunately it somewhat unpopular due its main gun being hull-mounted rather than in a turret, so perhaps we will not see it out as much as we should. The T-50 will probably get a serious outing – it is almost enough get me to purchase it myself (though I may not get around to doing so). The Panzer I Ausf. C certainly has massive potential as well, and as these are currently something a flavour of the month at the lower tiers I expect to see masses of them. If you like a bit more derping, the Cruiser Mk II has a beast of a derp gun on it for this tier – though being aggressive in that tank is a quite route to suicide. Another, more conventional derp option would be the M2 MT. These are only the tanks that immediately spring to mind, and I am not intending to list all the tanks involved. Each tank can be a fearsome machine in the right hands – time to find out which low-tier tank makes the best fit 🙂 .

Twenty tanks with a credit earning bonus though – that is something quite special. No snide remarks about them being low-tier, Tiers III and IV are a great deal of fun and that is all that counts. Overall this bonus is a solid A from me.

Update: despite the wording of the offer I appear to be getting the credit bonus on my Tier III tank destroyers too, but not my Tier IV TDs.

It took me a long time to continue the Main Questline in Skyrim – I probably had Diplomatic Immunity sitting in my journal for fifteen levels or so. However, in due course I visited Solitude and started the whole affair. In fairly short order I completed that quest and also the next quest – but then I was faced with a choice. To travel with my allies to a particular place, or to travel separately and meet them there. I choose the latter – I figured (in character) it made sense to split up so as to make it harder for our opponents to track us. Yes I know that is all make-believe, but it works for me 🙂

So I went about preparing for the Civil War itself. My family currently lives in Whiterun, but I know enough from various overheard conversations Whiterun will, at some point, become a battleground. So I am building up Windstad Manor – the home you can construct with the Hearthfire add-on in the Hjaalmarch (governed from Morthal). That is now mostly complete, and I will shortly be moving my family there. I also made a did some tasks for the Mages’ College at Winterhold – and then become serious sidetracked by the College of Winterhold questline. Suddenly there was a real sense of urgency about the quests, a definite feeling of “this has to happen NOW”. Of course many quests in RPGs or MMOs try to convey this through quest text or the like, but it can be pretty hard to suspend one’s disbelief when one knows how the mechanics work. In this case however the accompanying storyline did all the heavy lifting.

This means I have now completed two of the Faction Main Questlines (The Companion questline I completed a long-time before, though there appear to be an almost infinite number of semi-random “follow-up” quests one can do with them, and I am expecting the same will prove true for the College). I have also now visited all the hold capitals apart from Markath, and have now reached level 42, which I think puts me about half-way to the level-cap for the game. In no way do I feel I am half-way through the game, though. So many more places to uncover – most of my activity remains restricted to about half the map – and I know in that half there is plenty left to do.

My next step in the game is to finish building up my house, then move the family there, and then most likely continue on with the main questline. Probably. This game has a truly wonderful ability to sidetrack me.

This last week or so I have really struggled with World of Tanks, my record is something like 15-30. Sometimes the random factors of the game gang up on you – and then you start to become a bit frustrated and that causes mistakes, which makes it more likely you lose even more.

I generally have two, totally contradictory approaches to dealing with this. The first is to stop playing the game that evening, and play something else. The second is to try and bull through it, reminding myself not to try too hard. So far, neither is working 🙂

 

This weekend’s special offer features tank destroyers and artillery – the vehicles most likely to inflict pain when you can’t see them. It runs the usual Saturday morning to Tuesday morning.

The tanks involved in this special come in two group. Firstly there are a group of tier VI Tank Destroyers: the Jagdpanzer IV, M18 Hellcat, M36 Jackson, SU-100, and ARL V39. Then there are some Tier V SPGs: the Hummel, M41, SU-8, and AMX 13 F3 AM. These vehicles are all at a 50% discount and have a 50% earnings bonus. The Hummel and Jagdpanzer IV I can certainly recommend. The Hummel has a great combination of hitting power and manoeuvrability. The Jagdpanzer IV gets a bad rep, but I got on well with it.

Also available at a 30% discount is the British Tier VII premium tank destroyer, the AT-15A. The French premium Tier IV SPG 105 le FH18B2 is also available at a 50% discount. The French arty I know virtually nothing about – and it appears relatively rarely on the battlefield. The AT-15A I have seen played very well – used right it can soak up a lot of damage for its team. Also a team-mate can fire over the top of it, meaning for the same vertical volume the team can output double the damage. It is slow however, so if you do not like slower vehicles it is possibly not for you.

Why the British Tier VI tank destroyer is not included I do not know – perhaps because the Brits do not yet have artillery in the game. Even taking that into account it seems a strange omission in a themed offer such as this. It is a minor thing however, and otherwise the is a great selection of vehicles.

The medal involved this special is the Confederate medal – each one will bring in an extra ten thousand credits. You get confederate for damaging at least six enemy tanks which your team mates subsequently destroy (and have more damaged tanks that others kill than anyone else).

Next we have a 50% discount on regular and premium consumables, so time to stock up on those repair kits! I always make sure to buy my consumables on these offers and not as I go along – one can save a substantial number of credits doing so.

There is also a 50% discount on inscriptions, both temporary inscriptions paid for with credits and permanent ones paid for with gold. These are purely cosmetic and personally do not really interest me – but if this is something you like for your tanks now is clearly the time to invest.

More usefully for me there is a 50% discount on garage slots, and I have going to invest in a few. Yes I have plenty of tanks in my garage – but I want to be able to explore more and have them readily available. The other reason to get some now is, if last year is anything to by, the specials around Easter might be quite special – so time to get some extra space to take advantage if that speculation turns true (for that reason I am also saving credits – currently 5 million).

Finally the first victory in each vehicle this week will give a triple experience bonus rather than the usual double.

Overall this is a great special, the only minor irritant being no regular British vehicle involved. It really is minor though. Definitely A minus territory.

In a general sense I suppose most reasonably well educated people have some idea of the causes for the First World War. Most folk, and most popular histories, will have some sense of the coalitions of the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente, and how these alliances played out following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in a provincial backwater in the summer of 1914. The more advanced books, and those with a little more knowledge, probably know about the First and Second Balklan Wars that immediately preceded the Great War. I do think however relatively few people know why Agadir was important in that process. Given everything that came after, it is easy to overlook Agadir and the role Morocco played in the run-up to World War One.

Morocco was the unlikely ground for competition between Germany and France. Following the Tangier Crisis of 1905/6 a settlement between the powers had been agreed – a settlement that France broke (for various reasons) in 1911. Germany sent a gunboat to the port of Agadir to make its case, and the Second Moroccon Crisis ensued. The two crises over Morocco were instrumental in the deepening the split between Britain and Germany, and thereby helped to ensure Britain sided with France as it did in the summer of 1914. To say that Agadir caused World War One is fairly ridiculous – but one can say that Agadir contributed to the circumstances which, in the summer of 1914, led to war.

There is some real doubt right now as to what is going to happen to Cyprus, and what it might mean. The threat of imposing a levy on deposits has created an atmosphere of some real fear – it smells like a panic measure. More worryingly is the apparent disconnection between Eurozone Finance Ministers and the effects of what they proposed last weekend. I have no idea if the Eurozone is going to unravel, or not. The risk has, I think, gotten greater.

If the Euro does collapse however I do wonder if, in a hundred years’ time, this week’s events in Cyprus will be as easily overlooked as what happened in Morocco just over a hundred years ago.

This title is brought to you from the Department of Terrible puns. In other words, last night I played my one-thousandth battle with my Marder II. I made a conscious effort to try to do so whilst the St Patrick’s Day special was still ongoing. Might as well make use of that triple crew experience bonus.

I first fell in love with the Marder II back pre-nerf, on the Ensk map. I killed three enemy tanks in one of my earliest battles with. Something about the tank just clicked with me – and subsequently even when other tanks frustrate I can dive into the Marder II and just enjoy myself. Indeed, I would go so far as to say the Marder II is the reason why I am still playing World of Tanks after almost one year. Even the nerfs have not gotten between me and my Marder II.

There were two nerfs. One was strictly speaking a rebalancing as a result of the change to the World of Tanks Matchmaker back in 7.5 and affected all Tier II and III tank destroyers. The other specifically targetted the Marder II – and it is difficult to say they were wrong to nerf it. The Marder II when I first started playing it was overpowered. The nerfs themselves mostly affected aiming time, accuracy, and rate of fire, if memory serves. Being honest, although annoying on one hand they have also made the tank more interesting (and challenging) to play – one really has to consider more carefully now when to break cover. The nerfs also did not affect two characteristics that caused me to fall in love with the tank in my first few dozen battles – the penetration of the top gun (which is extreme for Tier III) and the wide gun arch (which is very generous for a tank destroyer). The first meant you can always apply damage to pretty much every tank you encounter, even the Tier V heavies. The second means much greater tactical flexibility when picking one’s ambush spots than most TDs.

My win rate in the Marder II is currently 60.9%. If that sounds a lot then in reality it is probably roughly about what should be expected. It should be remembered that alot of the opposition I face is vastly less experienced than me, often people playing with crews 50-60%. In contrast I have over 4400 battles played, including now a thousand on this one tank. That means I know the game mechanics better, and I am very familiar with the capabilities of my tank and of those I regularly come up against. My crew is at 100% and is now at 85% on the third skill (the first two skills were camouflage and brothers in arms). My Marder II has equipment (Enhanced Gun Laying Drive, Binocular Telescopes, and Camouflage Net) and also has camo applied. In other words, all the advantages are with me. This is not to say I do not come across other experienced players in the Tier III battles – I am far from the only experienced player to keep several low-tier tanks, or the only player to specialise in just one low-tier tank. Despite all of this I also still die and lose with some regularity – as I should. There are plenty of tanks out there which can be a real pain. Inexperienced does not mean harmless. In Tier V battles the above advantages all become less pronounced – to begin with there are more experienced players in Tier Vs, but also the tanks are far more capable. I can, sometimes, go head to head with a T-46 – I would be mad to attempt the same with its Tier V successor, the KV-1 🙂 .

Actually the vehicle I least like facing in the Marder II is the AMX 40 – I am fairly sure I get more bounces from this tank than any other. It can hit my Marder fairly hard too, being able to reliably two-shot it (the AMX 40 is arguably under-gunned for anything above Tier IV, but it can make mincemeat of Tier IIIs). Well, to be fair most things Tier IV and above should be able to two-shot or one-shot the Marder II – but this tank is also much more difficult to reliably inflict damage on. The new Panzer I Ausf. C I also think is going to become something of a headache due to its very rapid fire. Each shot does little, if any, damage – but it makes returning fire difficult as my aim keeps getting knocked off – and all those shots added up will amount to a kill given time.

It is a reasonable question to ask how much impact the Marder II has had on my overall stats – and of course it has had a positive overall impact on things like winrate and kills – my kill/match rate in the Marder II is 1.8 (1835 kills total). On the other hand, the proportion of my games that are in my Marder II has been steadily decreasing for months. Back in August last year I had played 2155 battles, of which 522 were in the Marder II, or 24.22%. In December I have played 3384 matches, 808 with the Marder II, or 23.88%. Today I have played 4445 matches, 1000 with the Marder II, which equates to 22.5%. During this time my kills/match rate has been rising slowly but steadily even as the comparative number of games in the Marder II is declining. Indeed now I have reached this milestone I expect the decline to hasten somewhat, though I do still intend to try to play at least one match every day. It remains, of course, my favourite tank.

My medal-line with the Marder II is equally flattering – 5 Halonen’s Medals, 2 Kolobanov’s Medals, and 1 Pascucci’s Medal (my second one, won very recently), 5 Defenders, 6 Patrol Duty (all won on Province), 4 Scout (also all won on Province), 39 Sniper, 3 Confederate, and 44 Top Guns. Then again as mentioned earlier regarding the differences between me and most of my Tier III opposition, it should be fairly good.

My aim with the Marder II is basically to still get better playing it. I still make silly mistakes. I still feel at times this tank has more to give. I have something like 420k experience to go to complete the third crew skill, which is going to take a while. I am increasingly conscious that my team should be able to rely on me to do a decent job – and that may include offering advice on tactics now and then. True it may not be accepted, but there have been one or two occasions where it has been heeded with good results. Despite that I still want to improve my own gameplay – I know I am not yet as good as I can be on this tank.

Which ultimately is one of the things that drives me to play World of Tanks – the desire to get better.