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Monthly Archives: September 2014

So the latest of the “fun” modes has started in World of Tanks. To the best of my memory the Chaffee race is the third fun mode in the game, following the success of KARL and the Football mode. Just like the previous two I am unlikely in the extreme ever to play the Chaffee race, for what may be the simplest of reasons: I just don’t get it.

Really. I scratch my head and cannot work out why people want to play them. Well that is not entirely true, I can appreciate on a very intellectual level that other people do indeed find these game modes diverting, a bit of a laugh, and generally a nice break from the usual grind. However, whenever I try to advance from that intellectual supposition to something approaching actual understanding my brain doesn’t make the leap.

One clear reason for my lack of comprehension is that if I want to do something a bit different than the daily tank grind I will … go and do something different. My Steam and GoG.com libraries are hardly as extensive as many, but there are a sufficiently wide range of diverting games to cover most of my modes, and if I don’t want to game I have plenty of other avenues of entertainment as well.

Ultimately I think this is a minor example of a challenge I do face, in life in general, and not just in gaming. It is a feature of my Asperger’s that makes it very difficult at times to understand other people except at a very superficial intellectual level, which really is no understanding at all. The thing is – that’s ok. I don’t have to understand the motivations of other people for something like this. It is there, and I am sure lots of people will enjoy the experience, and I am happy that they will. In return however I do want people to understand that these things hold no interest – but sometimes people don’t. They seem surprised, and it is not always easy to explain to people for whom English is not their first language the reason why.

That said I have not yet encountered any actual insults as a consequence of this, not even stretching the meaning of the term. The QSF community is generally pretty chilled. The world turns, but it turns slowly, but it does turn.

There is a war in the North. The highly trained and disciplined Swedish army, proud of its tradition of victory, marches through the lands of western Russia, seeking out the foe. Until one morning out of the fog comes the spectre of three separate Russian armies, each one the same size as the Swedish one. The Swedish soldiers, brave and capable, are trapped. Superior though they are to their Russian counterparts there is no overcoming the sheer numbers of the Russian horde. By the end of the battle tens of thousands are dead, but the army of Sweden is no more, either slain on the field or surrendered. It is the turning point in the war, and nothing now can prevent the Russian behemoth from over-running the North.

Okay, a little dramatic, but in broad strokes the above describes both the historical campaign that led to the Battle of Poltava, and the next stage in my game as Russia. I had not intended to tackle Sweden quite so early, but Sweden itself wished to further beat up on Denmark. Denmark has become a minor power, having lost Skåne, Bornholm, and most of Jylland. Now Sweden had laid claim to Fyn. Denmark turned to their English allies, and England asked for aid from my Russia. Deciding I had to keep my English alliance with an eye to further showdowns with France I accepted the call, and was made the alliance leader. For their own part Sweden called in The Hansa (a regional power in northern Germany) and The Huron (who are now westernised and becoming a regional power in eastern North America).

The war began without me really having any aims – I had no claims over Swedish lands. As it happened though within a few months of the beginning I had a random event which gave me a claim to one of Sweden’s provinces in Estonia. Meanwhile I was slowly gathering my forces. I only had one army in the vicinity, which I was to invade defenceless Estonia, and I began to send two further armies to the border, plus recruiting a bunch of mercenaries. I did get an initial scare when the 45k Swedish stack looked like it was going to march through Neva to defend Estonia, but in the event they turned back into Finland, and across to destroy the Danish army. At sea the Swedish fleet was also initially victorious against my allies, and The Huron were having some successes in America.

I cautiously began an invasion of Finland and northern Norway, and then that Swedish army appeared in my back yard. Clearly it had marched across Bohemia. It was too late however, I had managed to gather my armies, and I now smashed the sole hope of Sweden on the banks of the Narva. After this victory in a sense the war became somewhat boring – it was mostly a case of building up a significant warscore to achieve the desired peace. Whilst there were further battles Sweden never managed to amass a significant enough army to cause any trouble, and The Hansa stayed mostly out of it.

In the peace treaty I took Reval, I gave the Orkneys to England, and returned Jylland and Bornholm to Denmark. Indeed the value of the peace treaty was rather higher than the warscore – I can only think the AI desperately wanted out of the war.

This war feels very significant. There was never really any significant chance of losing the war – my manpower advantage was simply too huge – but it is my first proper full-scale war directly with a western power, and I think probably marks the start of a time when I am likely to be more active in Europe again. For a very long time my western frontier has mostly been dormant – ever since the duo of Poland and Lithuania was broken in the late 1500s. That is going to change.

All in all though I couldn’t but smile at the way my game was echoing real life history and the Battle of Poltava during the Great Northern War.

 

Yesterday I picked up, after watching a video from Scott Manley, The Long Dark. This is an Early Access game on Steam, available for £14.99 (or $19.99), with the expectation that the price will rise as the game continues to be developed (in a similar fashion to Kerbal Space Program). You are a pilot whose plane has come down in the northern Canadian wilderness following an unexplained geomagnetical storm, and you have just one goal: survival.

Survival games are not uncommon, but this game interests me in a way those other generally have not for a quite simple reason – no zombies. 🙂 The main opponent in The Long Dark is the weather and generally inhospitable environment, aided and abetted by a somewhat violent wolf population. In my three playthroughs thus far I have never really gotten beyond the scavenger stage of the game – roaming around trying to find useful things. I am also now mostly sticking away from finding out more about the game, finding fun instead in just trying things out.

It must be remembered that this is still an alpha game, its feature set is very incomplete. You will sometimes encounter things in the game which are not yet implemented (for example, in the main survival menu there is an option to build a snow shelter, which you cannot do so currently as it is not been done). Likewise there are bugs, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. Likewise currently you can only play sandbox on one map, but there are boxes promising a Story mode and another map. I know some people do not like the Early Access game model, but I have found it well implemented well in Kerbal, and my first impression in this is very positive.

I find the graphics to fit very well with the atmosphere. Not the most realistic graphics, but it works very well to enhance the feeling of being cold. Sometimes crystal clear realism just isn’t what one desires in a game’s graphics, and here I think they art-choice is inspired. The atmosphere is aided by the voiceovers, which I have found to be very effective. Nothing over the top, just right to add that extra flavour.

I can see how some people will also not like this game at all. It certainly has the capacity to be cruel in terms of luck. With limited save opportunities, and as far as I can tell none after you die, some people are going to get frustrated. Essentially, if you don’t like permadeath don’t play. That said I usually am not a big fan of permadeath, but in this game I find it works – perhaps because it is single player.

So far the longest I have managed to survive is just over a single day. I am steadily working out where everything is on the map, and the process of exploration is being really diverting. I feel like I am only scratching the surface. Personally I think I am going to get my money’s worth out of this game.

Well the 9.3 update of World of Tanks is coming out on the EU cluster tomorrow, and there is the usual fairly hefty set of patch notes. What follows are just a few comments of things that most matter to me, and should be treated as an exhaustive overview.

The first and most obviously selling point of the patch is the introduction of a slew of new light tanks, which can really be seen as tidying up matters in the tech tree from previous updates. Every since the Chinese joined the French in having a Tier VIII light tanks it felt only a matter of time before the other major nations were given a similar line. Now Germany, Russia, and the USA all get a complete light tank line ending in Tier VIII. For the USA this also means the overhaul of the last of the trio of old Tier V lights, the Chaffee. I am not going to be playing any of these myself any time soon, but I will find it interesting to see them in the battlefield.

Whilst the light tanks are the headline change, the one that is probably going to have the greatest impact on the greatest number of players is the much anticipated change to the dreaded KV-1S. I think the split in the new Tier V KV-1S and Tier VI KV-85 is very interesting. Having watched a number of reviews it looks like both are going to be very interesting and viable vehicles. I would have loved to have gotten the new KV-1S for free, as they have done in the past (with the VK3001H/VK3002M for example), but c’est la view. I will be purchasing the new KV-1S when I can, and I am thinking of using the 100mm on the KV-85 with the rate of fire nerf to the 122mm. Overall I am muchly looking forward to this change, and I am hoping it will introduce a bit more variety to the Tier VI heavy landscape. In particular I think this is likely going to be a boost for the M6 and T-150, but I could be wrong.

Speaking of nerfing OP tanks, back in the depths of Tier II the T18 is also getting a nerf. This is long-deserved because I would struggle to name a vehicle more overpowered Tier on Tier than that little beastie. The Hellcat is also getting a nerf, but from the looks of things it will still be a very dangerous vehicle in the right hands. The FV304 is also getting the nerf-bat, and I think the most important element of this is the rate of fire being reduced slightly. This should make it harder to keep an enemy perma-tracked, which always used to be the most annoying element of coming up against them.

Another change I am looking forward to, as someone who plays a lot of German tanks, is this new concept of separating transmission from engine, and thereby cutting down on the number of fires. This is an indirect buff to a number of vehicles, which I think should help level the battlefield somewhat. It may leave certain vehicles a little OP (E75 I am looking at you), and if so I am sure the nerfbat will come down hard in due course.

Two other changes which will have a widespread impact is the new version of Murovanka. Personally I have always quite enjoyed Murovanka, so I didn’t actually feel a change was necessary. Nevertheless it will be fun to have a new dynamic on the map, and I will be interested as ever to see how long it takes new meta to evolve. The other development is the new hangar interface. I feel like this is probably overdue for some further work, and it looks reasonable from what I have seen, but will have to withhold judgement until I am using it on a daily basis.

There are introducing a bunch of easily obtained battle awards. I find this quite a fun addition, and generally a good thing. It feels like it will enable “intermediate” accomplishments to be marked and noted, and thereby help cater for the majority of the WoT playerbase for whom a Battle Honour is a relatively rare event.

A more subtle change to game mechanics is that ricochets will now have the potential to do damage to other tanks. This could make choke-points very interesting indeed, and means standing behind a side-scraping behemoth may be a dangerous place to be :). Overall I like this change – though I believe it will naturally favour better players at the expense of less good players (like shooting through soft cover has), I also believe it is subtle enough not to be a problem.

The final change I am going to single out is penalties for afk players and players who leave the battle early. I think this is a great change, and fully support it. Whilst occasionally I myself go afk if there is a need to look after my daughter, from everything I have read I hardly get the impression one game here or there is going to be a problem. Whilst I expect there will be afk players it is nice to see that action is being taken against them. It is a shame that they haven’t managed to get the automatic process on suiciders worked out, but better delay that rather than catch people incorrectly. After all, in certain places of some maps it is perilously easy to end up in the drink (mutters Windstorm under my breath).

There are of course plenty of other changes, but these I think are the mains ones for me right now.

 

As a somewhat delayed birthday present to myself last month I got the Jagdtiger 8.8cm, the Tier VIII premium German tank destroyer, whilst it was on special offer. Whilst I already have a Tier VIII premium – the KV-5 – I have been finding it a little less enjoyable to play. I think probably because it was my only Tier VIII premium meant I have ended up getting a bit of burn-out with it, which is a shame since I have had some great games in that tank. Anyways, the JT88 has always been on my list of premiums to acquire, so I was very much excited to get it.

So far I have played just over 50 games in it, desperately earning credits, and my win rate is pretty much in live with my overall win rate. Mostly I have been enjoying myself. I have always heard that this was a very good credit earner – even for a Tier VIII premium – and my limited experience very much backs that up.

The thing I like least about the tank is simply its general mobility. This is no real surprise, it is a rather large and unwieldy beast. I am very much going to have to get better at ensuring I don’t get caught out with some annoying scout behind me. It has also lead to a few fast paced games when I have rather been left behind by the action, and the slow speed also makes it hard to fully impact a battlefield in some matches. That, of course, is just the nature of the beast, and probably good practice for when I eventually get into such speedy behemoths as the T95 (probably not until 2016!).

Otherwise I really find little else to dislike. The front is reasonably bouncy, and whilst the sides and rear are generally quite weak there are not impossibly so. The gun does have low pen, but its rate of fire is insane and very much allows one just to pepper a target to death. It does mean I am going to have to really learn when I need to use premium ammo, something I am working on – and also when premium ammo will not be all that useful and so to concentrate on tracking and the like. The alpha isn’t brilliant, but is adequate when compared to the rate of fire. It does mean exposure, but if positioned right this does have the frontal armour to risk that exposure. If positioned right. Another thing to work on, since my positioning on certain maps is, shall we say, less than intelligent.

The crew I am currently using on the JT88 is a mixed one. Half of it is my old Marder II crew, steadily working on their 4th crew skill. The remaining three crew members I have taken from my Ferdinand, which are now on their second crew skill.

However, I bought the tank mostly for its earning potential, and there I am very happy. Even on my poorest games I am managing to get 20k profit, average earning is between 35k and 70k, depending on a victory or loss. I have had some killer games though, making a profit of over 90k on a loss and 120k on a win. Hopefully I will get more of those as things go.

When it comes to the EU series of games I have always found Russia to be quite entrancing. One of my most memorable games of EU2 was a Muscowy/Russian game, and after having a few trial starts as Portugal I opted for Muscowy/Russia for me first full play-through of EU4. It has indeed proven to be a fun game, containing some interesting elements of diplomacy, colonisation, and conquest – lots of conquest. It is now 1697, and the mighty Russian Empire stretches all the way from Lithuania and Moldova in the West to the Pacific in the East. Australia and Alaska both are being colonised, as are various other Pacific islands (including Taiwan). Manchuria has mostly been secured, and in Asia the Russian Bear is encroaching into Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Persia. Also Ukraine still exists as a sort of client-state, the result of a mis-understanding of EU4 game mechanics. In all honesty this is perhaps less impressive than it sounds, though there have been a couple of close moments along the way.

eu4_2

For the last fifty plus years however I have had no serious rival on my borders. Early on the Timurids (the now somewhat fragmented crimson state to the south) were a significant threat, but between myself, the Mamluks, Delhi, and internal rebellions they are a shadow of their former self. The Mamluks and I have been fighting on and off since the early 1500s, but their real rise to prominence itself early occurred in the last 50-70 years, and by the time we were sharing borders the Russian bear had become bloated enough to even somewhat disregard their now formidable strength. One way this can be seen is that their northern border used to be the Caucuses Mountains, whereas now Damascus is a border city. Lacking immediate rivals game mechanics have forced me to look farther afield to the old reliable enemy:France.

In the EU series of games France has always had a tendency, though not a certainty, to live up to its historical potential. In this game that is certainly true. It is the most dominant state in Western Europe, successfully dismembering any other continental state that became a threat. In the New World its Colonies cover the northern half of South America, and a goodly portion of North America too. Then they is their pernicious influence in Africa, and just recently they have seized a province in India. Perhaps it was inevitable, but there came a time when I could no longer select any neighbours as Rivals, but I could select France.

However, for the first fifty or so years of our Rivalry nothing much happened. We shared no borders, and no interests. I had basically stopped military endeavours in Europe proper against other Christian states, and they were fully diverted in various American adventures and sundry Western European wars. I was concentrating on southward expansion against the Islamic and Mongolion states – Crimea (now finally annexed), the Ottomans, the Timurids, the Oirat, and the Mamluks. In time all of those nations formed a Coalition against me, despite the Mamluks and the Timurids spending at least as much time fighting each other as me. Thus we pursued our differing expansions until, around 1670, I suddenly realised the diplomatic landscape had shifted: France and The Mamluks had become military allies.

This presented me with a practical problem: France is my only serious foe in land warfare. As Russia I have one tremendous advantage of almost everyone, and that is manpower. As someone is reputed to have said, quantity has a quality all of its own. However, the one other nation that also has a truly serious pool of manpower is France. It is not as massive as mine, indeed it is a bit under half of mine, but then France also has a significant other advantage terms of the quality of their army that to some of the Ideas they have selected, and their own National Ideas. To be fair it could be worse – there is one idea group they have not selected that I feared they would, but even so they have the idea advantage. Also as a Western nation they have a technological advantage in their units as well, one which will only become more prevalent over time (I am so large that Westernisation is something I am likely to avoid as it would be an excessively painful process).

Thus I went about the time-honoured route to deal with France – I sought out allies, the most obvious one being England. England has struggled a little this game, but it is still a respectable power with a significant colonial Empire. Whilst not the match of France, it can prove a significant distraction, and sometimes is able to hold its own. Of course, the thing with allies is sometimes they feel emboldened by alliances – and so England decided to continue its attempted takeover of Scotland. This war started in about 1690, and I honoured the call to arms, expecting nothing much to happen, except perhaps a naval landing up north. To my credit I did try to pressure on of France’s allies in the Baltic – but my fleet proved insufficient. It was with some surprise therefore I realised that France had managed to get the necessary access treaties to march a 45k army across Europe and end up on my borders.

There was no real surprise as to the outcome – I ensured I had a nearly 2:1 advantage in men in the battle, and after two engagements the French army was destroyed. This army’s destruction added significantly to our warscore, and helped the war result in victory. Meanwhile it marks the first time I have faced the French. I imagine it will be the first of many. Round one is over, an almost incidental affair in which ultimately on a single province changed hands. More significant confrontations will almost certainly occur in the remaining 120 years or so of gametime.

And this is why I love the Paradox series so much. This rivalry between myself and France began as an almost theoretical thing, an artefact of game mechanics. Over the course of fifty or so years it has become something different, something more real, something that is actively shaping the game and influencing my decisions. I am very much looking forward to the eighteenth century.

So, one thing I have done in the last few weeks is I have finally succumbed to Minecraft. As if I had any spare time. I can’t say exactly why I ended up purchasing the game, other than I had some money on the allowance I give myself for entertainment related activities, and the price seemed a little cheaper than it had been in the past (perhaps due to currency fluctuations). I launched the game, and died pretty much straight away 🙂

After doing some very, very cursory reading I started a new game, and so far on this game I have not died. I have survived several nights, I have a rudimentary base (really just a simple, one-storey stone building), and have done some basic crafting. I have also done some quite enthusiastic mining. To begin with I just delved in a downward, more or less in a sort of spiral fashion. I rather got excited at my first discovery of coal, and the iron. At length I managed to get right to that impassable layer at the bottom, and in my mine I have now started some galleries, and have found redstone and a very little gold. So far no diamonds, emeralds, or other goodies, though I imagine they will come in time.

I think I am going to stop mining for a while though to concentrate on some above-ground work. The area I am spawned in looks to be where three biomes meet. One of these is obviously desert, the other looks like a swamp/marsh thing, and the other is hills – the spawn itself being in the latter. I have purposefully avoided so far looking up too much information on the biomes, wanting to try and explore. This it not to say that I have not looked certain stuff up, but my searches are tending to my directed to immediate practical problems. Anyway, there are a lot of trees around my initial base, which frankly are in the way. I have some vague idea of building a very tall tower – really just because. For that though I need room. I also want to try doing some farming, both crop and livestock. I have tried doing a basic wheat field, but so far not much success. Perhaps – probably even – I am doing it wrong.

Still, with only a relatively short time playing the game I can very much see the attraction. Microsoft – don’t much it up!