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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Well, last weekend’s tanking more than made up for my rather spotty gaming the weekend before. I had a very favourable run of battles, which apart from Tuesday, pretty much continued all week. This meant I have pretty much succeeded at all the aims I set myself last week. In particular, even with the purchase of the T-34-85, I am sitting on over 4.3 million credits as of time of writing. The ST-I is getting closer (even though it costs 3.5million, I want to have 5 million in the bank before I get it). Also this week I had my 3000th victory, though I must admit I didn’t realise until a few battles after the fact.

Tigers The top gun has, unsurprisingly, improved the effectiveness of both tanks. I have almost finished researching the top engine on the historical Panzer VI Tiger, and have gotten the upgraded turret on the Tiger P. Still finding the regular Tiger a better fit than the Porsche variant.

T-70 I played this tank intensively over the duration of the offer, and I had an absolute blast. Another really fun low-tier tank to play

M4 Sherman Although not included in the special, I did get a few games in on the Sherman to benefit from the crew skill bonus. I have refitted it with the 76mm M1A1. I always used to have a lot of success with this gun, but I switched to derp to see what everyone was talking about. Not that I ever used that much HEAT. I like playing the Sherman with both guns, but now seems time to switch back to AP. I have had a few really good games as well, not least of which was a game last night on Fisherman’s Bay where I came away with 1000 xp base (before premium) (replay here).

Leichttraktor Crew now at 100% and starting to learn Brothers in Arms. Will probably keep taking it out semi-regularly, as Tier I battles actually have a lot to teach me. For a start they are massively more random than battles even at Tier III are. I am still often having games where I contribute very little because I am caught out because of this. Yes this is because both teams are made up a large percentage of new players, which is the cause of the randomness, but whatever the cause learning how best to react to it is still going to be useful.

Aims Acquire credits. I am slightly doubtful if I will manage to get to 5 million credits this week – for a start I only have 1 vehicle that I will play directly involved in this weekend’s offer – the VK3001H. Secondly I am expecting not to have any appreciable tank-gaming on Sunday because I will be off to Tankfest at the Bovington Tank museum. Now there is a slight change this might not happen due to an ongoing situation with a close relative (and if it doesn’t I will be a wee bit disappointed, but family beats tanks every time) but at the moment it looks like we will be heading down there.

 

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This weekend the special offer is all about medium tanks. Lots of medium tanks. Tanks that swarm and multiply in a frozen field … hang on, got sidetracked by H G Wells there. Anyway, the point is that if you like the faster aspects of this game, this is the offer for you. All the tanks involved are Tier VI and VII tanks, and while I feel that some lower-tier tanks would fit in well with the theme of the offer I am not complaining (too much).

Without further ado onto the tanks involved – these tanks are all available at a 30% discount and will benefit from a 30% earnings bonus: M4A3E2 Jumbo Sherman, M4A3E8 Sherman, T20, Cromwell, Comet, VK3001H, VK3001P, VK3001D, VK3601H, Panzer V Panther, VK3002D, T-34-85, KV-13, T-43, Type 58, and T-34-1. Yes, this is every regular Tier VI and VII medium in the game. In addition two premium tanks are available at a 50% discount – the Panzer IV Schmalturm and Panther-M10.

The one possible downside of the way this offer is constructed is that no French vehicles are available, given there are only three French medium tanks currently in game at Tiers III, IX, and X. Putting that aside I have personal experience of only three of these – the VK3001P, VK3601H, and VK3001H. Myself I very much like the VK3001H which I think can be used quite aggressively, whereas the VK3001P is more of a pure sniper and the VK3601H is a heavy-tank in disguise. As to commenting on the rest it is actually quite difficult. I see vastly more people playing Tier VI heavies and tank destroyers than the mediums, with the result that most mediums don’t stick in the head as much as other tanks I encounter more frequently. The Panther seems to be most effective as another sniper, while the Cromwell can be very effective played aggressively in the wolfpack manner. I have seen two or three Cromwells take apart an enemy team very effectively. Otherwise I must admit the others have especially distinguished themselves beyond certain stereotypes – so with the Americans they are adapted to hull-down tactics, for example. The same is true of the two premiums. Like I certainly would like to take advantage of this offer to acquire the Panther-M10 right now I cannot really justify it.

Moving onto the other aspects of the offer there is a discount on three and seven day premium account options for those wishing to see if premium is for them. The medal associated with this offer is Defender, and each one will mean fifteen thousand credits heading your way. Finally the first victory on each tank will give a triple experience bonus for the duration of the offer.

Overall this is a solidly themed offer, very concentrated with very little in the way of extras. B+.

Kevin K was the chief proponent of the Nymph Project. His vision was to began the Era of Spaceflight with a series of probe-controlled rockets to establish practical experience in planetary (and interplanetary) rocketry, before risking the life of a single Kerbal. He was in something of a minority, but even with the lax safety standards of this time this vision of computer controlled craft gave him one unsurpassed advantage – of all the competing projects of that time the Nymph Project was in position start launches long before the competing Enterprise and Cyclops Projects.

The first test rocket managed sub-ortibal flight, but clearly lacked the necessary power to get into a reliable orbit. The second rocket was not so successful, spinning out of control at a mere 4km. The third design was, on the face of it, even less successful. The addition of four solid-fuel boosters caused the entire design to bend inward, resulting in a fireball at the launchpad. Kevin K, however, was unfazed, and more or less kept the design for the fourth rocket, the Nymph-D. All he directed was the addition of some struts to the solid rockets, linking them together.

It was a critical launch. Kevin K needed to show some progress at least, and he knew that observers Directors of the other projects were using his experiments to inform their own designs. From the three diary accounts we have the control room on that morning we know the atmosphere was tense – but by the late afternoon the champagne was out. The Nymph-D design had successfully launched a probe into orbit. Displaying a certain lack of imagination for which all his projects would be known the probe, once orbit was successfully established, was called the Nymph-1.

The initial orbit was somewhat inclined, but this did not mar the festivities, especially as the following day calculations for a correction had been made to make the orbit properly equatorial and circular. Plans were already afoot for a second launch, which occurred as soon as a further Nymph-D rocket was ready. This launch was a rather better run affair. It also had a slightly different aim, seeking to establish a satellite with a polar orbit, which it did with great success, and was duly named Nymph-2. The major difference between the Nymph-1 and Nymph-2 launches was the Nymph-2 still had fuel for its final stage by the time a stable, circular, orbit had been achieved. The Nymph-1 had been forced to use the remaining fuel on the probe itself to achieve a stable orbit. The now superfluous stage was jettisoned, which meant this launch also contributed to the first piece of space debris in the skies above Kerbin. Some have regarded that in itself as something of an achievement, but others consider it a more sinister milestone.

The Nymph-D can lay claim to be the most influential rocket in the history of Kerbal spaceflight, and its basic design became the hallmark of all rockets launched during the Nymph Project. The probe itself had a small supply of monopropellant for precise manoeuvres, and also a small liquid fuel engine for short burns. This sat above a central fuel-tank and engine, which was known as the final stage. Attached to this were four more fuel tanks and engines, fired in pairs. Finally, attached to each of the outer engines was a solid-fuel booster – these were the first stage designed to get the rocket off the ground itself. Some took to calling it “The Square Rocket” on account of its somewhat quadrilateral shape, and also if gossip to be believed after the shape of the glasses that Kevin K wore at the time.

Nymph-D

So 8.6 has been out a few days now, long enough to get some opinion of the changes.

Firstly, a little mea culpa. In my weekly round-up last week I said that the Westfield encounter felt like an Assault – that is because it was Assault! Viewing it that way I think this is a much more interesting setup – so far it seems advantage is with the attackers, but I do not know if that is simply because people are not yet used to it. The Encounter mapmode on Mines seems like a lot of fun – but I think the northern team has a slight advantage on starting position around the town. Again though, as people get more used to the map this may change. Sacred River is a lot of fun, but I do find my fps suffers initially.

On the whole I am enjoying the accuracy buff. I think early it is seems the greatest beneficiaries of this will be the highly-skilled players who know what weakspots to aim for – and also snipers who will now have greater confidence at being able to hit at distance. However, in random matches at least there are very many players who have an imperfect knowledge of weakspots (myself included) so this does not negate the advantage of armour.

Speaking of armour, in my KV-5 I am enjoying the Super-Heavy Spall-Liner. Had a couple of matches where I was bracketed by artillery shells, and it seems quite clear that they were rather less effective than they had been previously. From the other direction you cannot tell if someone has a Spall-Liner fitted of course, but the arty changes have not in any way hamstrung SPGs. I suspect the less skilled / more impatient SPG players may abandon them – the longer reload times are quite noticeable. The changes to shell flight time seem quite easy to get used to, however. Generally I think SPGs will be played by the more skilled players now, and by newer players who did not know how things were before – and that while there may be a short-term drop in their numbers longer-term I think SPG numbers will rise once again. I suspect the arty-whines will increase again over time as well.

I have seen rather fewer derp M4 Shermans and Panzer IVs out there, which is to be expected with the HEAT nerf. However I can happily report the derp is still nicely effective if used properly. I have had some good success with the Hetzer and Panzer III derping. Again, I suspect this is a change that more skilled players will adapt to very nicely, but less skilled players will end up using fewer derp as a result.

Overall there does seem to be a theme with many of these changes: life has gotten harder for a number of less-skilled player groups, while better skilled player groups are mostly unaffected, or buffed. In particular I think the accuracy changes speak to this – in effect it boosts the abilities of skilled players over unskilled – widening the gap between the two in game. Now, World of Tanks is a casual game, there are lots of players who now and then fire up the game to waste some vehicles. What I do – playing regularly every night 250-300 games a month is actually quite exceptional. Looking at it another way, according to wot-news.com’s server statistics for the EU server, 88% of players on the server have fewer than 1000 battles, and more than 96.5% of the server playerbase have fewer battles than myself currently. These guys are the lifeblood of the server however, because without them folks like me would not have a game to play – frustrating as it can be to be on a bad team. These changes disadvantage them – but because they are casual players they probably will not know about it. Nevertheless I think Wargaming have to be careful not to unbalance the game too much towards skilled players – the less skilled need to have a good game now and then too otherwise they just will stop playing (though I do not think we are anywhere near a tipping point yet).

Just a thought I had while playing my Marder II.

 

“It will never work. Those boosters are just going to implode, just like last time,” the bespectacled designer pronounced, looking at the Nymph-D on the launchpad.

“Do not be so sure Robert,” Kevin replied, scribbling in his notepad. “Those struts will be the making of this craft.”

Robert eyed the four thin struts running around the boosters. “At least it is un-crewed.”

For a moment there is no sound, apart from the whoosh of the fan and the scratching of Kevin’s pencil.

After another long moment, Robert asked “What are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Let me a look at that,” Robert demanded, making a grab for the pad.

Kevin pulled it away. “That’s mine. I need it to write my history.”

Another momentary silence.

“Your what!”

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Much like in my Skyrim posts I have decided to do an “in-character” entry, and then an out of game entry. The difference being is that this time around I have decided to write a faux-history. This will not apply to everything I write about Kerbal Space Program, indeed just now it is going to relate to my initial forays in the main game. Partly this is also going to be another example of how I have an internal story running in my head. I hope you will like it.

Otherwise my progress in the game continues. I have had my first proper and utter failure, which was actually quite exciting. Back to the drawing board.

Last night I played a game of World of Tanks, where I made a critical mistake right at the start, and then compounded it by being really stupid, before finally – with two other players – managing to pull off a victory. Eventually I played well, but for the first long while I was definitely subpar, and while I will claim some credit for the win the other two players (a platooned KV-1 and BDR G1B) were more important. I am writing about match partly, however, because it ended up being a lot of fun, and partly because it is a good example of how even a poor-looking situation can be turned around.

The setting is the Abbey map, Tier V battle with a good mix of Tiers V, IV, and III on the both sides, and two SPGs apiece. I am in a T-34, taking advantage of the earnings bonus over the weekend. The main difference between the two teams is that we are have heavy tanks (as mentioned above) whereas the enemy has none, but to compensate the matchmaker has given them more Tier Vs. My team has the northern starting position.

I usually never go into the abbey itself on this map – I always figure that the centre of the map will get enough cover. If I am in a TD I sometimes hang back to defend, otherwise I choose either the hills to the west of the river-path to the east. On this occasion I went westward, along with a T-28 and the two heavies. A lot of our team however made a beeline for the narrow passage to the immediate east of the Abbey, and I started to get a sinking feeling as to what was going to happen. The river-road itself had no takers, but a couple of tanks including an SU-85 seemed to be hanging back in a defensive position near to where the road turns onto the base plateau. This was my first mistake, especially since after a few moments only the SU-85 and artillery were back there. I should have turned back, but I did not. In the back of my head I figured I had the speed to get back to defend if necessary.

Meanwhile myself and the T-28 raced through the hills, encountering no opposition. The fight below the Abbey was initially pretty much even – some enemy tanks had the same idea apparently, but in due course a Panzer IV got into a flanking position and our tanks started to fall rapidly. To make matters worse enemy tanks start to appear at the top of the river-road. Although I have now reached the post overlooking the enemy base, I choose turn around. The two heavies – far behind – have already done so. The T-28 presses on.

By this time the match is at 2-7 in the enemy’s favour. All our SPGs have died, and the base is being defended by the SU-85 and an M4 Sherman. Their situation is pretty dire as they are vulnerable to fire from the south, and although they can hide behind some cover for that it severely limits their effectiveness in fighting the attack from the river road. In due course they are both destroyed, and  the score stands at 3-9. Our T-28 has almost reached the enemy base, and I start to get a crazy idea that perhaps if I went back south to join him we could cap the base while the two heavies – which are getting into position to defend – give us the time to do so. The T-28 kills an enemy Grille and starts capping, and I turn around. I was almost at the southern point of the hills when I turned north, and I not quite at the northern point when I turn south again.

This was my big mistake. My other two decisions – to go to the west and not aid the defence of the river-road, and to turn back to our base, are defensible. An SU-85 can be very effective at holding up an enemy, and perhaps if I had kept on straight to the enemy base the idea of myself and the T-28 capping it out might have worked. Instead however I spend a lot of time running up and down 600-700 metres of hill (which with the turns is probably closer to 800 metres) several times.

I am about half-way and heading south – opposite the abbey, when the T-28 comes under attack and is destroyed. A Cruiser Mk IV from our team had also darted down the western route, and quickly follows him into destruction. I fruitless take up a position from the hill to try and shoot at anything that attacks him, but it is useless. The score stands at 5-11, the KV-1 having killed an enemy T-34. The other tank on our team is a Panzer II Ausf. G, but his time is quickly ended. The score is now 5-12, and I am finally heading back north. The time mark is 11.20 – only three minutes and forty seconds have passed, and we are outnumbered more than 3-1. I am expecting another defeat, especially as I can see the KV-1 and BDR G1B both taking damage.

However, I am at last in a spot where I can take part in the battle, in around C3, at a spot in the northern end of the western hills which provides me a view of our base and some of the surrounding ground. The BDR G1B takes out a Panzer IV that had been doing a bit of damage. My first shot of the match is at a T-46 that thinks he is hiding behind a rock, but he left enough of his rear exposed that I felt confident, especially with the accuracy changes. A hit, though he is only damaged. Indeed, it takes two further shots to take him out, but down he goes.

Meanwhile the KV-1 is at the northern extremity of the hills, on the path that winds up to them. The BDR G1B is on the slope up to the base itself. An enemy M4 Sherman is to the north of our base, trying to attain a good firing position I think, while a S-35 CA is in the base circle itself. That is very much a threat given its likely gun take out the damaged KV-1 with a single shot, and really wreck both me and the BDR G1B. Meanwhile a Panzer IV is coming around the corner of the cliff just in front of me, trying I think to flank the BDR, and there is a Panzer III further behind him. Priority is the S-35 CA. I think it is the BDR which takes on shot at him, which its, and I then finish him off with a second. The Panzer IV hits and damages the BDR however. Meanwhile I am being shot at – I think by the M4 Sherman, but so far he is missing. I shoot back at him, but suddenly start taking damage from the side. I reverse, to get cover between me and whatever is shooting at me – a Marder II and Stug III. I consider myself lucky I am still alive after two hits, but my health is now less than half. I still get off a second shot at the M4 – both of mine hit but he is not yet dead. I fire a third shot, but I cannot see the result.

The BDR G1B takes out the Panzer IV, and the KV-1 kills the Marder. We are all below 200 hp. The enemy Stug III has a great position to kill the BDR and is still at full health. The enemy Panzer III has climbed onto the base plateau and now also attacks the BDR. He proves to be my next target – and he takes three rounds to take out. The BDR now has just 94hp, but the Stug III also has just taken a large hit reducing its health to just below 100. I slip down the slope in front of me to get a firing position- as he is pointing the towards the BDR he is exposing his side. Two shots and he is dead before what I imagine would be a killing shot on the BDR.

After a fairly intense minute or so of gameplay the score is tied 12-12. The enemy still has the M4 Sherman somewhere on the base plateau, though he is heavily damaged. They also have a Valentine, status unknown, and a Sturmpanzer II. The Valentine reveals himself almost immediately by make a pot-shot at me, but it bounces. That is the problem with the Valentine, low penetration. Still I am not longer in a position with any sort of arty-cover, a fact made immediately clear by a large explosion where I just was. I stop, and take two shots at the Valentine (bouncing another of his) before repositioning around the corner of a cliff. Meanwhile the BDR takes out the Sherman. I take another shot at the Valentine, just as an arty-shell explodes nearby. That was luck on my part. I move, and fire three quick shots. The Valentine has only a little health left, but I do not want to stay still any longer. I more, fire, move – and an arty shell explodes right where I had mean a moment before. The BDR finishes off the Valentine.

Finally it is all over bar the shouting. I race down the road to the immediate west of the Abbey to try and find the enemy SPG. The two heavies take the eastern route where many of our team had died in the opening stages of the fight – and there they find the enemy SPG. I take a shot at it – but before my shell arrives the BDR finishes him off.

The BDR G1B ends up with most experience with base 962 and over 1500 damage, I am second with 702 and over 1100 damage and the Sniper medal. The KV-1 is third and earns a Steel Wall. I bet the two enemy Panzer IVs feel a bit aggrieved however – both of them score more experience than anyone on our side apart from us three. All in all it is good for over 54,000 credits profit thanks to the special. A great end result despite some very questionable decision making part-way through. One sign of that is I travelled over 3km in all.

Replay is here – a couple of screenshots below the fold.

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The T-60 is a Tier II Soviet light tank that was added in 8.5. I have yet to kill one on the battlefield, and they remain somewhat scarce. Mostly I attribute this to folks generally going to the better known T-26 or BT-2. As the post title suggests I have had a lot of fun playing in this tank.

In terms of its general characteristics it is quite a small vehicle, weighing in at about six tonnes (compared to the 9-10 tonnes of the other two Soviet Tier II Lights). This is reflected also in its very low profile, and small turret. This has two advantages – firstly it improves its ability to hide, and given many of the opponents of a Tier II tank are less than brilliantly skilled this gives it a potentially powerful ambush advantage, as well as aiding it in a sniping role. Secondly, it makes it harder to hit. This is somewhat negated by the accuracy buff in 8.6, but the general log still stands – there is going to be a lot of potential to miss this when firing at any sort of range – something more pronounced at lower tiers where gun accuracy tends to be less.

When something does hit the T-60 can also be quite bouncy. Its frontal armour is very heavily sloped, and while the rated 35mm is somewhat flattering the 70° degree angle of the upper glacis still means many lower tier shells will ricochet. The turret, once upgraded, is also well armoured and will also bounce quite a few shots at tier. However, from the sides or rear the armour is both thin and un-angled, so expect penetrations. Also do not get over-brave – TDs in particular will still in most cases be able to make mincemeat out of your frontal armour, as will Tier III tanks when upgraded.

The other defence of this tank is its speed, or perhaps more accurately its agility. This tank is not the speedster than the BT-2 is, but neither is it as slow as the T-26. It falls into a similar category as the British Tier II Cruiser Mk III – a fast tank, but not amongst the fastest. It can get a while to get its speed up too, but once it has gotten going it has one particular advantage. Its track resistance – that is how fast the tank can go over poorer quality ground, is really very high. The effect is more pronounced with the upgraded tracks, which also give a thereotical 52°/second traverse speed. This has the overall effect of making the tank remarkably agile, especially on rougher or softer ground, compared to the others it faces.

There are four potential guns for the T-60. The stock gun is the 12.7mm DShK – an armour-piercing machine gun. This can devastate a lightly armoured tank, but comes with one overwhelming flaw – after one has emptied the clip it takes over 30 seconds to reload. In a Tier II tank I call that almost criminal, as I imagine a number of newer players finding themselves destroyed while waiting for that reload timer. There are also two more conventional autoloaders – the 23mm PT-23TB and 20mm TNSh. I found myself liking these even less than the DShk – especially when compared to the final gun which is the 37mm ZiS-19. This is a regular one-shot gun with good penetration and decent damage for its tier. The rate of fire is reasonable, and it is a very accurate gun. This proved to me my favourite. While I suspect the DShK can be utterly devastating now and then, for overall good performance the steady and reliable ZiS-19 is the best gun.

Once I had everything upgraded I settled down in this tank quite well. I do play it more as a sniper, picking a spot in a bush and trying to take advantage of any situation offered. Generally I try to take position on one of the flanks, and then charging if an opportunity arises. In the low-tier matches it often does. One weakness is that there is relatively poor gun depression, which does mean position is quite critical. One oddity is that the turret is placed slightly off-centre, which allows some possibility of making better use of cover.

My record in the T-60 stands at 11 matches, 8 victories, and 15 enemy kills, along with a Spartan commendation and the Ace Tanker badge. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed myself, so much that I seriously considered keeping it. Reluctantly I have decided to sell it, but if I ever want another Tier II regular tank, this will be the one I get.