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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Some time ago (back in February) I wrote a list of the top ten premium tanks that I was interested in, ignoring cost. Well, times have moved on. Some of the tanks on that list are now in my garage. Also there are now quite a few more premium tanks than were available back then. So it seems a good enough time to draw up a new list.

Since this is a wish-list I am ignoring my actual ability to purchase, essentially looking at three different angles: whether it scratches by completionist itch, whether I think the tank might be fun and interesting, and whether I would have a use for it for crew training. Just to complete the background, the current premium tanks I own are Panzer B2 740f, Pz 38H 735f, Pz S35 739f, T-15, T-25, T1E6, Ram-II, LTP, T-127, M3 Light, Valentine II, Matilda IV, Churchill III, and KV-5.

1. M22 Locust – Tier III American Light – 900 gold

There are several reasons why this one is now first on my list. Firstly it is a low-tier premium, and I already own most of the premiums Tier V and below. This would get me closer to completing the set. Also given its small size and speed I think it would operate much like a scout tank would, and therefore be good training for me the player. Also, there is just something about the idea of this small very light-weight tank that just appeals to me. Irrationality perhaps, but that is ok.

2. 8.8cm PaK 43 Jagdtiger – Tier VIII German TD – 10000 gold

This pick is ultimately all about the desire (need?) to have a tank destroyer premium to train my German tank crews. It is also about the desire to have an alternative Tier VIII premium to the KV-5. Given I have generally enjoyed and had great success with tank destroyers, I do think I would end up using this tank quite a bit.

3. Excelsior – Tier V British Heavy – 1500 gold

Given I have not yet progressed to the British heavy line this is jumping the gun a little bit, but this would give me another solid Tier V premium option and also have a tank in play to help train those British tank crews. Plus, I just like the name.

4. T14 – Tier V USA Heavy – 1500 gold

Again, this one is partly down to the desire/need to have a premium to help train American heavy crews. However, it also here because I just have no desire to own a T34. Finally there is that completionist element again in acquiring another Tier V.

5. Panther M-10 – Tier VII German Medium – 5750 gold

The interest in this tank is almost entirely due to its backstory. That may be a silly reason to spend real money on, but there it is.

6. TOG II* – Tier VI British Heavy – 3500 gold

Having now seen the mighty TOG at Bovington, I must admit to just wanting to get this tank for the humour value alone. On one level this would be a remarkably silly purchase – everything I read about them suggests that the TOG is best played as part of a platoon whereas I would almost certainly be solo most of the time. On the other hand I have so far liked slow, large tanks and the TOG II is the epitome of the large slow moving heavy.

7. E-25 – Tier VII German TD – 6700 gold

As I understand it this tank is modelled as a tank destroyer in game as a best-fit as it did not really fall easily into any of the tank classes. Which is reasonable – it seems like a cross between a scout and a tank destroyer. It looks like a lot of fun, if one can avoid suiciding oneself. Plus of course it would be another German TD crew training option.

8. Löwe – Tier VIII German Heavy – 12500 gold

Money-maker, crew-training, and German – what is there not to like? Technically I already have a German heavy premium – the Panzer B2 – but that tank is not the best for crew training (the crew consisting of a Commander, Driver, and two Radio Operators – go figure). The Löwe does not have such issues.

9. FCM 36 PaK 40 – Tier III French TD – 850 gold

On one level this tank does not interest me at all – I play a Tier III tank destroyer every night on the same basic design. However, it does have two very particular selling points. Firstly that part of me that just wants to lay claim to all premiums Tier V and below, and secondly it would give me a vehicle to help train French TD crews. That last is actually the biggest reason why it is on this list at all.

10. T2 Light – Tier II USA Light – 750 gold

If the preceding tank made the list because of its usefulness, this one claims the last place on the list solely due to my completionist nature. Oh there are other low-tier premiums out there, but if I had managed to get both the T14 and M22 Locust this would be the last American low-tier premium available. For a Tier II it gets unusual matchmaking – being able to go into Tier IV battles. That would be a bit of a gameplay challenge I think.

Fall off this list from last time for reasons other than purchase are the AT 15A and the SU-122-44. Essentially the final two picks stole their places. Also just missing the list would be the SU-100Y and Dicker Max. I guess I just have a hankering for tank destroyers.

On the opposite side if the field I just have no interest in the T34, as mentioned above. Also the Sexton I seems kind of silly with its crew configuration, and the Matilda Black Prince has a poor reputation (indeed, overall I think the British premiums as a whole carry a somewhat negative rep for one reason or another). Also I have no interest currently in the IS-6 thanks to already owning a KV-5.

The rest I have not named are just kind of “meh” for me at the moment.

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NB: Consider this post, if it ever gets published, a way of thinking aloud. There is much navel-gazing ahead. You have been warned.

So I am taking the opportunity of a near-fortnight break in World of Tanks to think about what I am doing, and what I want to achieve in the near, medium, and long-terms, in particular since one long objective for me has now been achieved (third crew skill for Marder II crew).

I am quite clear in my head that over the summer I haven’t really had that much of a plan, more like two or three objectives, and then just a morass of whatever. There are good reasons for that – not least amongst them a highly pressured situation at work. While that has eased off somewhat, there are plenty of changes afoot which is going to keep work being somewhat pressured for some time yet.

I think on the average weekday night (when I am not platooning with a friend) I can expect to play somewhere in the range of 6-12 matches. On the weekends I will often be able to play more. My gut feeling is that Saturdays and/or Sundays are the best candidate for high-volume tanking given, but that in most circumstances I would only devote one of those days to such high-volume tanking. Given that constraint it seems reasonable to try to get a list of what I would ideally like to achieve, and then work out how best to meet those objectives, prioritising as necessary.

Of course, there are also games other than World of Tanks I wish to explore, in particular right now Kerbal Space Program, Crusader Kings II, Skyrim, and Tropico 4. Now, I simply cannot do all of this at one time, so I am going to have to prioritise. In particular I think Tropico 4 just drops from the regular schedule for the moment, perhaps remaining in reserve for “light relief”. Kerbal Space Program offers gameplay totally different from anything else on offer, so I would like to muck around in that at least once a week. Skyrim/CK2 is an either/or sort of choice, and I think I choose Skyrim for the moment.  I am so far along, it seems silly not to keep on going through the various storylines to completion. World of Warplanes feels like it may become a regular feature with one friend of mine, and other occasional gameplay.Now, my brother has a saying that no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and it is certainly possible that first contact with reality will alter these intentions.

If that is the wider gaming context, now onto World of Tanks, which will remain my primary game. I currently have a garage chock-full of tanks. Fifty-three of them if memory serves, with two spare garage slots. These largely fall into four groups: keepers, premiums, being researched, and being parked. That last group covers several situations, from the Panzer V Panther which I got on special offer and just haven’t yet gotten around to playing, to the KV-4 which I was waiting to sell when I got the ST-I, to the SU-85B which I want to train the crew up a bit for when I slot it into the second Soviet TD line. I don’t have a particular problem with the fact that I do not play even half of my tanks any given month – I consider the great thing about having a garage like this is the flexibility it offers. Indeed, while I have been unable to take advantage of this recent offer’s discount on garage slots whilst I have been away, I do intend to expand my garage a bit further soon as I intend to get the Durchbruchswagen II and the second German TD line.

Also currently in World of Tanks I find I am rarely playing two whole groups of tanks: Tier IV+ scout lights and SPGs. This has to negatively impact my overall gameplay. In the most basic way – playing artillery is a great way to find those arty-safe and arty-safe-ish spots. Likewise I would expect greater experience with scout tanks to improve general map-knowledge and also positively reinforce some medium play. Being realistic I may not be able to do this all at the same time, but maybe this is something I could alternate. Anyway, it means I have my first item on my list.

1. Play more SPGs / scout tanks

Another goal I set myself quite a few months ago was to try to play through all the Tier III non-SPGs. The truth is that I haven’t gotten really all that far with this – I still have at least four Tier IIIs left to go. I also had the idea of doing the same with the Tier IV non-SPGs non-scouts (ie T-50), but have done even less with that. Now, when I play these lower tier tanks I try to play at least a minimum number of games with them – fifteen for a Tier III and twenty for a Tier IV. In reality usually I have the Tier III elited before I reach that number, and with Tier IVs sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t (largely dependent on what I have prior researched from other tanks).

Now generally I have given this a somewhat low priority as I have wanted to devote more time to higher-tier Tanks like with playing through both Tier VII Tigers. However, there are now certain things going on which make me want to re-assess. In particular I note that the Wrecking Steel missions both this special and last special were both concentrated on Tier V vehicles, and it feels like Tier V vehicles are the most regular entries in the various special offers, so it makes sense to have a large range of possibilities available.

Alongside side is the realisation that grinding out both the Tiger H and Tiger P at the same time was a massive higher-tier timesink which then impacted everything else I wanted to do. I do not want to entirely stop my higher tier battles, but for the time being I think I am going to have to be less ambitious. Now, I have generally tried to play one German tank, and then progress through the Soviet KV heavy tank line. The Tiger Project disrupted that, but I think I will move back to it. Also I think I should select my German tank with a view to being aware of monotony. I mean, a line-up of KV-4, KV-5, Tiger H and Tiger P is a lot of heavies in a row. Given in the latter part of October I do want to start finally on the ST-I this may mean postponing the Ferdinand for the time being in favour of something else.

2. Increase Priority of low-tier tanks
3. No more than 2 Tier 7+ projects active at any one time
4. Try to avoid monotony of tanks

One aspect of my current garage is a large-ish number of premiums (though with one exception all Tier V and lower). Now it took my a stupidly long time to realise how crew training in premiums worked, but since then I have successfully used this facility a few times. It is something I want to try to do more however – if only because I have spent real money on a lot of these vehicles so it just doesn’t make sense for them to be gathering dust in my garage. Now I cannot use them all of them at once, but I feel on a “good” day I should be able to use at least one to help train a crew along.

Crew training is a little quirky however, because unless I intend to retain the tank I do not see the point in over-training crews for Tier III or IV. Even at Tier V – unless I intend to retain the tank – it seems silly to go beyond getting the crew to 100% and maybe some “spare” experience for retraining onto the Tier VI vehicle. However, for other crews that I am already playing it seems logical to get the victory on the regular vehicle, and then go for a victory on an associate premium vehicle if available (ie, ST-I and KV-5). However, I would also want to keep the option open to train up a specific crew, either for a tank I intend to purchase, or in preparation to play that tank – like I have been doing with the Ram-II and the M4A3E2 crew.

Also when it comes to crew training, taking a serious look at my crew skills, I see one particular glaring weakness: a lack of crews with Sixth Sense trained. In most circumstances this is for a simple enough reason: I have lots of crews which do not yet have the first crew skill at 100%. However Sixth Sense appears to be such a powerful skill my lack of it is becoming painfully obvious. Time to right this weakness where practical.

5. Try to use premium tanks more often for crew training in conjunction with Tier VI+ regular play
6. Try to train more crews in Sixth Sense
7. Try to incorporate crew training projects to be in a better position when starting new Tier VI+ tanks

The other item I have in my garage are tanks I have retained because I want to keep on playing them. Chief amongst these of course is the Marder II, which is the tank that really is reasonable for the fact I am still playing World of Tanks after 18 months and that I am approaching six thousand battles. However, there are at least seven others (the precise status of the VK3001H and VK3002M being undecided). So I definitely want to keep on playing that. I also want to play around with the above two tanks to decide what I want to do with them longer-term.

Turning to the other vehicles I have retained they are the Panzer III, Hetzer, Cruiser Mk III, Leichttraktor, M4 Sherman, KV-1, and KV-2. I retained each of these for various different reasons: the Leichttraktor and Cruiser Mk III because I wanted a regular Tier I and II respectively, and Panzer III, Hetzer, and Sherman just because I had so much fun in each of them. The KV-2 because of the mighty derp. The KV-1 I kept because at that time it was my most played tank as I had grinded through the old KV pre-7.5 to benefit from the reworking of the Soviet heavy line. It has my third most skill crew (working on the second skill) but I must admit I rarely get it out now. With most of the rest I make an effort to get them out to benefit from any relevant special offer – but not really with the KV-1. Therefore I want to get some games in on the KV-1 to decide whether I do indeed want to keep it still, or whether to move on and use this crew elsewhere.

I also want to continue to “progress” on the other tanks here – which in reality means advancing their crews, some of which might happen “naturally” through special offer play, some of which might be deliberate as part of general crew training.

8. Continue playing Marder II
9. Work out what to do with VK3001H and VK3002M
10. Decide what to do with KV-1
11. Try to play more with the retained tanks

So that concludes looking at what sort of tanks I have available, and I have ended up with eleven goals. Next is to see what is achievable with those goals. I think the way to approach this is to budget my games. I said at the start on an ordinary weekday I would imagine I would be able to play 6-12 games most of the time. Sometimes to be sure I might be able to play more, and sometimes I might play less or not at all. Then for at least one day at the weekends I will play quite a bit more – maybe up to 20-30 games range. What these estimates do is give me a budget. Also it means there are some things I am just less likely to be able to do mid-week but which I might well be able to do at the weekend. So it is time to try to prioritise those goals.

Also I have something of an opportunity in that I do not intend to head back into full-time “regular” play until the latter part of October as I have another few days away in the middle of the month, meaning I can devote time to some of my other desires, such as getting some games in with the KV-1.Ignoring this time period for the moment, here is how I envisage my rotation working out from late October:

1+ games in Marder II
1-3 games with ST-I
1-3 games with Tier III/IV non-SPGs
1-3 games with German project
1-2 games with SPG/scout tank
1-2 games on training project

Generally I stop playing one tank after getting the first victory bonus. Now obviously if I only get in six games on a weekday evening it is very unlikely that I will carry out of all these aims. The idea will be to alternate playing SPGs/scouts most of the time. Generally I would not play a vehicle after a second defeat unless other items were already met. Also for the ST-I and German project it may also include a battle or two on a premium adding extra training to those crews – though I would likely play those games further down the list. The following gives some idea of how this might look in practice:

1-0 Marder II
1-1 ST-I
1-0 M8A1
1-0 Panzer V Panther
0-2 VK1602 Leopard
1-0 Ram-II (training M4A3E2 crew)
0-1 KV-5 (with ST-I crew)
1-0 T-25 (with Panther crew)
1-0 T-15 (with VK1602 crew)

So, what do we have here? Eleven matches playing scout tanks rather than SPGs. Eight of those matches take up covering the six areas, with the last three matches come from playing premiums with crews already used. In the above example I have given myself a 7-4 record, but if I had a losing record there would be fewer (if any) matches dedicated to crew training. I am fairly happy with this.

Of course, the overall plan may be adjusted to take advantage of various special offers or seek to pursue a particular mission. Also I think I might choose one “extra” research project for when I have extra time to do such things – right now that would most likely be the M6.

However, I will not put the above plan into action right away – in the next couple of weeks or so I envisage playing the Marder II, KV-1, VK3001H, VK3002M, and a selection of Tier III tanks, possibly with an odd match thrown in on the Tigers.

So, that feels like I have now managed to think through what I want to play. Now it is time to do something else: look at how I play. This shows looking at my weaknesses.

The first of these has to be being over-aggressive, with the associated lack of survival. As several different sources say, once you are dead you lose the ability to influence the battlefield. My survival is as of writing is about 29.7%. I have spoken before of the need to boost this. Of course the trick is increasing survival whilst not becoming passive – because if one is passive you get the same effect. Thinking about things, whilst I do hold my over-aggressiveness at times to be at fault, that is only part of the story. Twinned with this are two other causes: impatience and ‘just trying to get in one more shot’.

Being patient is not easy. It means waiting until you can make the most effective impact. In real-life combat it is not easy. One way that Wellington won several of his battles against the well-trained French armies was by being patient – getting his troops to wait until the French were close enough so that their volley had a lethally dramatic impact. Exploiting an enemy’s impatience – getting them to attack before they are ready – is another time-honoured tactic. Impatient foes are likely to make mistakes. That is certainly what happens to me at times – I make myself vulnerable for no good reason, trying to force something that is not perhaps there. Instead I should wait and let the enemy make those mistakes. Or something like that – this is far easier to write about that put into practice.

What makes it complicated is that there does come a time when breaking cover, charging across the valley of El Halluf (for example) is the right thing to do. What I really need to start thinking about is when I make such decisions.

On the other side of the coin is knowing when to stand back, knowing when to stop pushing one’s luck. There are more times than I care to remember when I have shot an enemy tank, and thought ‘I can get another shot in’. Oftentimes I am right – the thing is I have also just allowed them to get a shot in at me, and sometimes that shot is fatal. Essentially I need to learn to fall back behind cover more often.

A related point to both of these is knowing when to fall back entirely. When for whatever reason (lack of team mates for example) one is faced with a situation where you cannot hold a position. Now, in certain positions it will be a do or die situation, where there is no good route of retreat or retreat just means defeat by surrendering the base. In other situations though it should be possible to try to conduct some form of fighting retreat – and if it does look like one is about to die to try to make one’s death to be expensive and for one’s wreck to be as inconvenient as possible. I remember one match on Erlenberg Assault where a defending KV-4 basically won the match by making sure his wreck blocked the northern bridge.

While I may be too aggressive in general gameplay a lot of the time, there is one part of the game where I am far too timid. Since premium ammo for credits was introduced I think I have purposefully fired premium on only about a dozen or so occasions (as opposed to premium loading first when the battle starts, and me idiotically not realising this for a time). This no doubt impacts my win potential. I can quite easily think of a few matches were a well-placed premium round or two could have made all the difference.

Of course, premium rounds or not one has to know where to aim. My average tier is 4.6 or so, and I know most of the weak spots of the Tier VI tanks and below as one would hope from that. Tier VII and VIII tanks are somewhat less well-known, but still there is some familiarity. Far less so Tier IX, and especially Tier X tanks. Even on lower tier tanks however there are sometimes weak spots, or other tank characteristics it is useful to know of which I am ignorant. Essentially when it comes to tank knowledge I must admit to having been coasting somewhat. Time to hit youtube and start watching some videos, and maybe twitch to see some streams, to garner ideas of how to improve my play. In actual fact I have already started this, and picked up a number of useful hints which I hope to start deploying in the coming weeks. However, there is still much research to do.

It is important however not to try to do too much at a time – and not to overwhelm myself with details. If we distil the above discussion to a list we get the following:

1. Try to reduce recklessness
2. Try to increase patience
3. To fall back more often
4. To make each death more expensive for the enemy team in terms of damage and time
5. To make use of premium ammunition
6. To do more research

That seems like a reasonable list of things to be working on.

Of course, as I start to work on all of this I expect just one thing to happen – my win rate to reduce a bit and quite possibly the other stats as well. In particular playing more SPGs and scout tanks is likely to involve a period of adjustment – as is starting a new tank in the ST-I. That is alright so long as it does not last overlong and I can see signs of improvement in other areas.

There are certain things I am unable to do at the moment, seeing as I am on holiday and all and away from my home computer. Chiefly this is remember all the intricacies of my garage – ie the precise status of all my crews, especially for tanks I play less often. One of my tasks when I get home will be to take a census of my garage finding out that information for deciding future crew training schedules. I am thinking of putting some of that info into my monthly updates so I can regularly track it, though that would make those posts even more time-intensive. Something to think about for another day.

In many respects this is a very truncated posting. In the last week I have basically only played two games, and not all that much of those, for a very good reason: I am writing this from Denmark where we are currently on holiday vistining my in-laws (and me trying to take the opportunity to improve my halting Danish).

Nevertheless, I have a little down-time, and computer access, so it seems reasonable to make this post at more or less the usual time. Needless so say however do not expect much posting for the next little while.

World of Tanks

On Saturday I played 32 matches – which is the most matches I have played in a single day for a very very long time. I came out with an 18-14 record, which was reasnable. In particular it might I completed that mission to get 15 victories. I was also about 2/3 of the way to getting 50k experience and complete that mission – but I decided not to turn an otherwise enjoyable day of tanking into a chore.

Perhaps along the same line I ended up not playing World of Tanks on either Sunday or Monday, but I did get in a few games on Tuesday before we flew out on Wednesday. This allowed me to achieve both my goals for this week – getting my Tiger P elited, and also getting my Marder II crew to complete training their third crew skill. Now the long grind for the 4th skill begins – though I am realistic enough to know it is possible I will never complete it – I probably would not complete that skill before the end of 2014 at the earliest. Lots of things might happen between now and then.

Meanwhile I am taking the opportunity of the holiday to re-assess where I am in World of Tanks and what I want to do moving forward. I did the same the last major holiday I had. I am not entirely certain yet, but I think it will involve the Marder II, one German project (probably either the Ferdinand or the Panther), the ST-I, finishing off  the Tier III project, and then one other line which I have not yet decided – plus whichever tanks I want to play on the day or are nudged towards by the special offers.

Kerbal Space Program

I cannot post a screenshot from where I am typing, but I have landed a Kerbal on the Mun! I took the ridiculously overpowered launch vehicle from my refuelling stop, and replaced the refuelling pod with a lander design. Probably quite a poor lander design – it contained a bit more liquid fuel and a lot more RCS fuel than it actually needed for example. Still, finesse can come in the future – the main thing is we got out to the Mun, orbited, separated, and got the lander on the ground. Our Kerbal walked and jetpacked around a bit, planted his flag, and then began the more interesting job of redocking to orbiting part of the craft. This took much longer than it should. The first problem was getting a decent encounter – I fluffed my first chance when I accidentally burnt in the wrong direction when trying to match orbits. Once I did match orbits (after checking what I did wrong on the wiki) I then spent ages in a fiddly dance. My lander appeared to have a slightly odd centre of mass making it very hard to line up or something. I ended up switching to my orbiter eventually, and made a comparatively simple docking on just the second attempt with that. Getting back to Kerbin from there was relatively painless.

I am undecided about what my next project for KSP should be. I think it will either be sending more or less the same orbiter/lander design to Minmus, perhaps with a few tweaks; or to try an interplantery probe. I sort of have a potential interplanery probe already in orbit around the sun, with a potential encounter with Duna plotted out. I am fairly sure I have the fuel to get the encounter (but I could be wrong) but I don’t think I will be able to secure an orbit (less likely to be wrong). More food for thought whilst I am away.

Due to the misfortune of a friend of mine having his computer going kaput (hopefully only temporarily) I found I had a somewhat free evening. Also due to the good fortune of getting a deal on Sky Movies I had a number of films recorded, waiting for such an opportunity. I chose Prometheus, since I have wanted to watch it since release. After all, Ridley Scott has crafted some of my favourite films. Also though I had read some rather critical views on the film post-release, and wanted to know if what those reviewers saw as weakness was a weakness that I recognised.

The credits rolled perhaps thirty minutes ago, and I can say I had a really enjoyable time. I think I can understand some of the disappointment others might have had in this film, though I do not think they can really blame Ridley Scott for this. This is connected to the Alien timeframe, but Alien it is not. If one was expecting a film such as Alien I can see where one might be let-down. Likewise if one wished to have some things explained this film is going to leave a somewhat sour taste – if it discloses one answer it is only to reveal more questions lurking beyond it. Also I suspect some folks have put some of Ridley Scott’s earlier work on a pedestal to which all his future work will be compared to, and in that comparison can only be found to be lacking.

Looking through his acting credits I discovered, to my surprise, this is not the first film I have seen Michael Fassbender in – he had a supporting role in 300 apparently though I could not place him by memory. I have seen none of his more recent work, though have heard consistently good things of his ability. Now I have had a chance to see him exhibit his talent myself, and he is a consummate performer. Watching Michael Fassbender play the android David, that modelled himself and his manner on Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of Lawrence of Arabia is an exhibition of ability that had be smiling at odd moments. Of course, it helps that I love Lawrence of Arabia.

David is one of a trio of characters that spoke to me particularly in the film. He is an android set amongst humans, a thing made to serve those who are his inferiors in physique and intellect, forever acting on the orders of another. His presence is almost like a mirror, to allow us to see ourselves mirrored in his eyes. His questions challenge, but they appear sincere. He doesn’t truly understand the motivations of those around him.

Ridley Scott is no stranger to androids of course – in particular there were two Androids in the Alien franchise – simplistically one good and one bad. There were also the replicants in Blade Runner, and there was nothing simple about them. David is a different incarnation yet, and a very good film could have been made just from his viewpoint. I think it would have been a more limited creation however than what we have. David is encompassed both by a sense of the sinister, but also by a sense of solidity.

Charlize Theron plays Miss Vickers, the lurking presence of authority on the ship Prometheus, whose will overrides even that of the captain. Vickers is present in quite a lot of the film, but rarely draws attention to herself. She has the difficult role to cast a shadow. She is threatening with very few words. She wears a mask, fulfils a role, but her motivations and actions often remain opaque, and little is actually explained. We are offered two particular glimpses of the person behind the face, but they are incomplete.

The lead character of Elizabeth Shaw is played by Noomi Rapace, and she turns in a stunning performance. She carries off that trick of being a strong woman and not a woman being strong. By that I mean she is herself, rather than playing the role of someone weak being strong in moments of crisis. Modern culture still offers shockingly few roles where this can be exhibited.

Elizabeth is a scientist, and a devout Christian (though her denomination is never explained). In the company she keeps – other scientists, hardened crew, and an android – this makes her something of an oddity. One of the central themes I found in Prometheus was the journey of her belief, which appears to be a thing of conscious choice.

There are some obvious mythological references in Prometheus, starting with the very name. However, I do not want to get hung up those. I think they get in the way of the meanings I take from the film – and for me the twin themes of journey and of choice are near the heart of things.

Choice is ever-present in the film. Sometimes these choices are obvious – such as deciding to take off one’s helmet in an apparently breathable atmosphere. Others are less clear and have clouded implications, such as accepting a drink in awkward celebration. These are highlighted by the fact one character – David – appears to lack the capacity to make choices, instead he follows orders. He is asked at one point “what happens when  [your creator] is not around to program you anymore?”. Just perhaps at the end of this film we have an initial answer, a sign that David too can make a choice.

The idea of a journey is a very old one. The oldest literature we know – Gilgamesh – is filled with journeys. The mythic character of Prometheus embodies more than one journey in his tale. So too this film has a number of journeys swirling about it. Chief amongst these is a search for knowledge – different knowledge for various members of the expedition, but knowledge all the same. It is this search for knowledge that I think binds the audience to the crew of the Prometheus, for us film-watchers too are on a search for knowledge – to know about the Alien franchise.

Our own search for knowledge is frustrated by the film’s innate ambivalence. This is not a film that really explains things. It shows, like its gorgeous prologue scene, but nothing more. Much of what we are told comes from David – and do we trust him? What answers we do get are often made irrelevant by events, dead-ends on the knowledge-quest perhaps.

If Prometheus is an ambivalent film, I also found it something of an impermanent one. What I found very interesting about the three characters I named above all feel apart from the main group of characters, not entirely part of the common weal. David is an android, inhuman. Vickers is apparently in charge, aloof and alone. Elizabeth is a believer in an apparently atheistic group. I get the distinct feeling that the rest of the group do not quite seem as real as these three, but also that these three are somewhat ephemeral to the group. Elizabeth alone appears to have a connection in the form of her lover, but even so there is a sense he has more in common with the group than with her. Love is strange, but in the presentation he wishes to answer in terms of science, she in terms of belief. There is a strangeness to all of them.

Elizabeth is also the source of the last journey I wish to write about: the one I reference in the title of this post. At the start of the film Elizabeth is a devout believer. The actions that the film depict are, as much as anything else, a test of her faith. She has her moment of doubt, a moment of crisis. Her faith survives, but it changes. By the end she is the only human left, and her language has changed. She does not “want” to know the answers to her questions, she “deservers” to know. She has nothing to live for now but her belief. It is a belief of conscious choice, and it is all consuming. She has the option at the end to turn back, to forsake her faith. She does not. In one of her last lines David says that he does not understand, and she replies that is the difference between him being a robot and her being a human. Yet there is a sense that she has now moved herself beyond humanity – she has no human ties and her quest dominates.

The ending of Prometheus is the start of a new journey, one of the central questions still unresolved. I love that it is so. I think it is fair to say I massively enjoyed this film, and would unhesitatingly recommend it. Just try to leave expectations aside.

The special this weekend is a homage to the first use of the tank in warfare at the tail-end of the Battle of the Somme. The first usage of the tank was really one of desperation. Despite the popular view the generals of World War I were donkeys leading lions, the majority of them were very willing to embrace new forms of warfare to try and break the stalemate of the Western Front. Anyone who thinks they enjoyed the slaughter seriously misjudges them. They were in a very difficult place, fighting a war where the technology and business of war had, for a few years, given the defence an ascendance, which in the relatively restricted geographical situation of the Western Front converted into more or less total dominance. The tank was one of the developments that boosted up again the power of offence. It had been hoped to use them in greater numbers for the Battle of the Somme, but like any revolutionary new system there had been delays – and the start of the Battle could not wait (it was vital to try and relieve pressure on the French at Verdun in particular). So weeks after the start of the battle the top brass decided they could not wait any longer, and throw all the tanks they had at that time into their first action. If it was not a complete success, it did show this was a new weapon system with potential. It would take another couple of years, of practical experience and engineering innovations, before the tank came fully into its own. It all started however, at Flers-Courcelette.

The meat of this special is a wide series of bonus for all regular tanks Tier III and above. All Tier III and IV tanks get an 80% earnings bonus. All Tier V and VI tanks get a 50% earnings bonus. All Tier VII and VIII tanks get double crew experience. All Tier IX and X tanks get triple crew experience. Basically, something for everyone.

Furthermore a series of low-tier premium tanks are available at a 50% discount: T2 LT, M22 Locust, T-15, Pz S35 739f, FCM36 PaK40, and T-127. I am tempted by the Locust, but I will probably not indulge this time around. There is also a 50% discount on inscriptions and a discount on the shorter premium sign-ups.

There are also a series of missions – 4 in fact. The first mission is called “Second Coming” and for your second victory in a tank you will get double experience, which I think it quite fun. It is basically a second double daily bonus. You get it once per tank per day for the duration of the offer.

The second mission is “Tank Ace” and is awarded to whichever player scores most damage in the battle regardless of which team they play for, giving a 50% credit bonus.

The third mission is cutely named “There is no ‘I’ in Team” and means a Patrol Duty, Confederate, or Brothers in Arms medal earns triple crew experience (why not Crucial Contribution I have to wonder, but there you go).

The final mission is headlined as being a special mission, and a difficult one. It requires killing twenty tanks in a Type T-34, 20 tanks in a Churchill I, and 20 tanks in a Stug III. What makes it difficult of course is not the number of kills per se – though that would be tricky enough, but having to get 20 kills each for each specified tank. The rewards are desirable enough – 7 days of premium account; a million credits; and ten each of Large Repair Kit, Large First Aid Kit, and Automatic Fire Extinguishers.

Overall I have to rate this very positively – a full A. The make it complete would need a gold/credit discount as applicable for something more solid than inscriptions – one of camouflages, consumables, equipment garages, skill resets, or crew retrains would have done the trick. That really is nitpicking though. This is a great offer. It lasts the standard Saturday morning to Tuesday morning.

 

 

Not much to say really this week. The wedding we attended was a lot of fun, though unfortunately there was a bit of a family feud evident in the family of the other side which cast a bit of a shadow. The main thing however was that two people joined together. Melian really enjoyed herself. She stayed up to 9pm, and would have forced herself to stay awake longer if we had not taken her off to bed. She was so enthralled with everything, with the people and the food and the music – and most especially with the helium balloons. I took her “dancing” as it were a little bit too which made her smile and laugh. All in all a great experience. The consequence of course was less gaming over the weekend, but some things are more important than gaming.

World of Tanks

The big news of course is 8.8 being released yesterday. For the week I have a 29-25, which is okay. I haven’t played much on the regular Tiger, choosing to concentrate on the Tiger P which I am hoping to elite before we go on holiday. This should be easy enough since I have less than 10k to go, though I did have a string of defeats which has been a little dispiriting. Especially that Tier IX Siegfried Line Assault (when we were defending) an idiot player kept insulting me and blamed me for the loss when I was facing a Leopard PTA and Tiger II at the end. Still, came up top of the experience list on that battle, which warmed my heart a little.

I have also now fully upgraded the Type 2597 Chi-Ha. I am finding it quite a fun tank to play. From facing it I had formed the opinion it could be hard hitting and this is certainly true. Also I have taken the M8A1 out for a spin. I had already played this tank a bit, and now I have unlocked everything apart from the top radio. Since that takes 9k experience it will take a little while. So far I am more or less successfully containing my aggressive streak in it, since even more than the SU-85 this is a vehicle that can find itself ahead of the pack and surrounded by enemies. As for the SU-85 had some good matches as I continued to train the crew up a little.

Of course with the release of 8.8 I played a bit on the redone VK3001H as well as its Tier VI replacement VK3002M as detailed yesterday. Finally my Marder II crew now has less than 20k experience to go to finish out the third crew skill. I may make a push to finish that off before our holiday too, but that depends a little bit on my mood.

World of Warplanes

Had more fun mucking around at Tier II. This was the last time I got to play in the game before its official release. I look forward to playing occasionally in the “real” game moving forward. It will strictly be a supplementary game however, since I think Tanks suits me better.

Kerbal Space Progam

Another goal achieved – I set a small refuelling pod up in circular orbit, for a potential future interplanetary probe. However, I realised that by accident my rocket design has serious potential as a launch vehicle for putting Kerbals on the Mun. It might also be a good vehicle for launching interplanetary probes too, making the actual mission itself slightly redundant!

This is one of the things I have come to love about KSP – the fact that whilst engaging on one task you get these fortuitous developments.

So I have patched to 8.8, and managed a total of thirteen battles this evening, getting a chance to experience some of the new features of 8.8. My overall luck was somewhere from middling to poor – but ended up with a 6-7 record this evening – which given at one point it was 3-6 I will happily take. The following are going to fairly brief summaries – note these are only first impressions on a handful of games.

Maps

Got to play twice on the new Tundra map with the southern starting position, both in my Marder II. One was a close hard-fought loss. The other was a victory in which I ended up playing very little part. The map has a number of clear flashpoints, and it is also clear everyone is seriously learning. It does not strike me as being as complicated as something like Sacred Valley. In terms of visuals it most closely reminds me of Karelia. Will be interesting to see how the gameplay develops.

Also had a game, again in the Marder II, on the revamped Swamp map from the northern starting position. Now my memories of Swamp are a little hazy, but there are clearly quite a few changes around the central swamp area. That was where I fought, so I don’t really know about elsewhere on the map. Had another good fight, albeit a bit lopsided in the final result.

VK3001H

Played 4 games in my previously favourite Tier VI medium, now a Tier V heavy. I played 4 games because I lost the first three. In the first match I left myself exposed a bit, and ended up being peppered to death by two T-34s. While now a heavy it is not in the heavily armoured mode, and I am going to have to get used to that. The Konisch though is an absolute dream. At Tier V it can penetrate just about anything, and even against Tier VI and VII targets you can reliably make a pain of yourself – even without using the premium ammo. Had a Tier VII match on El Halluf (which we lost) where I killed an AT 8 and generally annoyed a KV-3, albeit we eventually lost the match (highest tier players did very poorly). My intention currently is to play around 30 games or so of this tank in its new configuration and decide from there.

VK3002M

The replacement German Tier VI medium. Only played one game in this, my last of the evening, Karelia Assault Tier VI match and we were defending. It was a blast. It clearly has many of the characteristics that so attracted me to the old VK3001H, in particular it is fairly nippy around the battlefield. Again I am going to end up playing a series of battles on it before I decide whether to keep it or not, but as of right now I have a nice warm feeling you get from a great first match.

New Service Record Page

Mixed feelings about this. Or rather, largely positive with one quite pronounced negative. I hate the fact that victories, defeats, and all the other totals are displayed only as percentages and not as percentages and absolute totals. Otherwise it is mostly a matter of getting used to the presentation. I like being able to track my status of things like Lion of Sinai, or seeing how close (or not) I have come to getting the Invincible award. The calculation of destruction rate (kills/death) and damage rate (damage done/damage received) is good.

I do not think Wargaming’s new Personal Rating system is going to gain much traction as currently designed, because it involves the number of battles played. To put it bluntly, some people with 15k battles are absolute ninnies who can be outplayed by players with only 1k battles. Unless and until it undergoes revision, I just do not see it gaining traction.

Mission tracker

This is a great addition, also especially the way missions are displayed in the after-battle results page tracking relevant progress. This is an excellent addition to the interface by Wargaming and I can easily see how it will influence play – and perhaps persuade me to play for “just one more match” to complete this or that mission.

Miscellaneous

I have already benefited from getting extra experience and credits by winning a Battle Honour whilst on the losing team – it happened on the VK3001H on the El Halluf battle I mentioned above. It is a great, great change.

Encountered a couple of minor hang-ups. First in the Barracks screen it initially displayed none of my crews, but fiddling around with the filter options fixed it easy enough. Likewise there appears to be a hang-up now and then when setting a tank to Primary or Reserve, and scrolling through the tanks is a little jerky.

In battle my fps and ping appear fine, definitely not obviously worse than previously. Given that World of Tanks used to run pretty smoothly spotting any improvement is actually going to be tricky.

Round-up

I forgot to turn on national voices, so opinions of that will have to come later, and likewise did not see the other revamped maps or Encounter mode on  Mountain Pass. Despite the losing record it was a largely enjoyable evening’s tanking. The thing with no totals (other than battles fought) in the Service Record does bug me, but there is clearly a lot to like in this update so far.