War Thunder Update 1.39 – Custom Camouflage (Skins)

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War Thunder has just received a major update, v1.39, bringing a bunch o’ new aircraft and assorted tweaks (full list in the change log). One of the more interesting changes is “User generated content support: maps, missions, camouflages and even custom aircraft”, supported by the War Thunder Content Development Kit (CDK). It’s very early days yet, but custom camouflage/skin support has been in place on the development server for a while so there are already a few options if you’re bored with your favourite aeroplane’s current paint job.

There are several places to get new skins; there’s a section on the official forums, and some dedicated sites like http://www.nexusmods.com/warthunder/ and http://wt-skins.com/ starting to pop up. The War Thunder subreddit also has a guide to skinning, plus filters to see user submissions.

(April 17th Update: Gaijin have also just launched live.warthunder.com as a service for exchanging pictures, videos, quotes, camouflages, cockpits, missions, locations and aircraft)

Applying a new skin is pretty easy, just download, pop the files in the “UserSkins” folder in the game’s install location, and away you go! On the Customisation screen you now have two selections in the bottom left of the screen, the original “Camouflage” option and a new “User Skin” under that.  The “magic wand” icon creates a test sample to play with, this option is also useful to see the folder structures that skins use, and the refresh icon allows you to add new skins without restarting the game.  Here’s a rather lovely Australian Spitfire from No. 457 Squadron created by brocollocalypse:

Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear

Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear

Custom skins are only displayed client-side on your own aircraft, other players don’t see them. This may be a little disappointing if you’ve put a lot of work into a design of your own and would like the world to appreciate it, but on a technical level you wouldn’t want megabytes of images being up/downloaded for every player in every match, and unregulated user generated content tends not to be a terribly good idea. I’m quite a fan of an Ork-inspired P-63, but a player striving for historical accuracy and immersion probably wouldn’t be so keen to see that in their game, and of course G*mes W*rkshop are notoriously litigious and may take a dim view. According to the FAQ particularly good user content could be incorporated officially in future updates, with authors receiving a share of the profits, a model that seems to work well for Sony and Valve amongst others.

So if you’re handy with a graphics package and have a personal connection with a particular plane that you’d like to see replicated in the game, come from a country not currently represented by in-game paint schemes, or just fancy a nifty colour scheme, it’s well worth checking out this update.

Posted by Zoso at 8:32 pm

GTA V Not Released on PC!

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NotGames have just released NotGTAV, not an all-action hyper-realistic high-octane game set in Los Santos, but a rather fun little hand drawn Snake-type game set (partially) in Swindon. Inexplicably this seems to be the first game set in Swindon, according to my deep and extensive research (not finding a Wikipedia list titled “Computer games set in Swindon”); if NotGTAV does well I’m hoping we might see expansions set in Milton Keynes, Weston-super-Mare or Bognor Regis.

OK, NotGTAV isn’t terribly deep, but as there’s still no sign of GTA V itself on PC it’s the closest thing you’ll get. Apart from GTA IV. Or III. Or the Saints Row series, or… quite a lot of other games, I suppose. Rather more importantly, though, it’s for an excellent cause, Peer Productions. If you feel that your sins are outweighing any Gaming Indulgences obtained via Humble Bundles, why not pop over and play with their slider (matron), even that raises a few laughs.

(Disclaimer: I don’t not know Jay of NotGames, who hasn’t not paid nothing for a plug. Hang on, I’ve lost track of the negatives… hasn’t not paid something? Didn’t not fail to not pay… Failed not to refuse to not… Oh, you get the idea, no money has changed hands. I mean you don’t get the idea. Don’t not get the… oh, never mind.)

Posted by Zoso at 1:27 pm

Home, where my thought’s escaping

games, zoso 3 Comments »

Star Wars Galaxies was renowned for looking past the central characters of the films into the deeper world behind them. Of the many and myriad computer games set in the Star Wars universe any number let you pilot an X-Wing, swing a lightsaber or wield a blaster, but if, while watching the cantina scene in Star Wars, you thought “what a fascinating glimpse into an alien culture; I bet the band confer some sort of buff, I wonder if they’re directly employed by the cantina owner who makes money from selling goods or if they play for tips from the patrons? I hope there’s somewhere you can go fishing nearby…”, Galaxies was for you. Luk3_Skyw4lk3r may have been disappointed that he couldn’t start out as a Jedi, but mastery of random professions would eventually unlock a force sensitive character slot, a slightly odd system with the potential to unbalance markets; then there was the Combat Upgrade, and the New Game Enhancements with simplified professions including Jedi, and L\/k3_5kyw4l3rrrrr34s in abundance, and this was obviously A Bad Thing, and then The Game came to a .

There is hope, though! A New Hope, you could say (LIKE THE SUBTITLE OF THE FIRST FILM, DO YOU SEE?), for in his recent AmA, John Smedley said “SWG PLAYERS – OUR NEXT GAME (not announced yet) IS DEDICATED TO YOU. Once we launch it… you can come home now.” All terribly exciting! What could that next game be? Where might it be set? Personally I’m hoping they pick up another big IP for the setting; Alien, for example: you could have professions like miner, spaceship pilot, trader and cook, and cart millions of tons of ore around the galaxy, and then if you master five random professions you pick up a distress signal and get eaten by an Alien. Or The Terminator; a virtual Los Angeles with extensive waiter/waitressing opportunities and nightclubs for entertainment, and then if you master five random professions it turns out that either one of your descendants is the leader of the resistance against the machines in the future, or you’re a Terminator who’d been programmed with a human personality and you get activation orders to hunt down a regrettably non-specific target.

Actually… that could work…

Posted by Zoso at 5:25 pm

Thunder, Thunder, War Thunder, Ho!

games, war thunder, zoso 4 Comments »

It’s been a quiet start to the gaming year; a bit of Borderlands 2 DLC, the odd World of Tanks battle, an ongoing bid for world domination in Civ 5, but nothing much new for me apart from SongPop, a sort of Facebook version of Name That Tune (only with less Lionel Blair). A piece on Rock Paper Shotgun’s always splendid Flare Path caught my eye, though, about War Thunder.

It’s a sort of Massively Arena-ish Drop-in Flight Sim Type Thing (that well known MADFSTT genre), rather like World of Tanks but with planes; indeed it used to be called World of Planes but changed name about a year ago. I’m not sure how I missed it, it’s right up my proverbial street, and really rather fun; I don’t think the new name helps, War Thunder is very generic, a bit “pick two vaguely military words out of a hat” without the meme-worthy silliness of Warface. Like an anti-tank shell off well sloped armour it’s the sort of name that glances off my brain without penetrating, so even though it’s been mentioned on various blogs, sites and forums it had been flying under my radar, as it were (an easier task in one of the biplane starter aircraft). Apparently one reason for the name change is that they’re broadening the focus to eventually include ground and sea combat, so it’ll be an interesting head-to-head battle with wargaming.net’s World of Tanks/Warplanes/Warships triumvirate.

War Thunder is from Gaijin Entertainment who have some flight sim pedigree with games like Wings of Prey, which has given them a bit of a head start in terms of available aircraft; you can choose to fly for the Soviet, German, US, Japanese and (most importantly) British air forces, so I’ve been pottering about in Gladiators and Hurricanes grabbing my eggs and fours and getting the bacon delivered. There are plenty of types of aircraft available, and maps generally have overall objectives such as ground targets to destroy or objectives to capture; if shot down you can switch to another plane from your hanger, so I’ve also been doing a bit of level bombing from a Blenheim, and developed quite a nice line in torpedo attacks from the Swordfish and Beaufort where shipping targets are available. There are a few game types, including some historical options with realistic controls and accurate combatants, but I’ve been sticking to the arcade mode while getting used to things.

All in all, well worth a look. You can even customise your aircraft with decals; don’t blame me, though, I was just picking from the options they give…

The Fighting Cock

Sausage squad up the blue end!

Posted by Zoso at 10:18 am

Economy does not lie in sparing money, but in spending it wisely

games, sto, zoso 2 Comments »

Captain’s log: a nice hunk of larch. It’s funny, you see, because “log” means both “a thick piece of tree trunk or branch, especially one cut for burning on a fire” and also “a full written record of a journey, a period of time, or an event”, so scientifically that was *hilarious*. Oh please yourselves. Following a series of exciting adventures, Starfleet have appointed me to the rank of Admiral and given me command of a new ship, one that doesn’t have big, tempting red buttons labelled “Abandon Ship” and “Self Destruct” on the arms of the captain’s chair. Due to budget cutbacks it is equipped with the most basic weapons, shields and engines from the Spacetesco Value range, but high command seem pretty relaxed about captains performing their own upgrades, so while my application to “Pimp My Spaceship” is being considered I have tasked my senior officers to review the spacedock market and make some recommendations to improve the performance of USS Hope Springs Eternal

“Good morning, men. And women. And aliens from tri-gendered species. And robots, and holograms and… whatever you are, in the corner”
“That’s a potted plant, sir”
“Very good, carry on… potting. Now, as you’re all well aware, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century. Except where it does, a bit, sort of, or there’s some sort of bartering involving credits, or energy or… oh, look, it’s all vague enough that Cryptic can get away with a bunch of different currencies and an auction house and stuff. So, as a new crew, let’s go around the table, introduce ourselves, outline what upgrades you’d like to purchase from the market, and we’ll run the budget past Stevens of accounts. You in the red shirt first.”
“Thank you captain. I’m Alexei Vladimir Ilyich Dynamo Kiev Five Year Plan John Paul George Ringo Antonov, Chief Tactical Officer, nuclear wessel etc. I propose replacing the aft photon torpedo launcher with a quantum mine dispenser, upgrading the for’d launcher, and replacing the phaser arrays with plasma cannons fore, and plasma turrets aft. Total cost would be approximately 100,000 energy credits for a moderate upgrade. We can also equip the away team with new weapons and armour for 75,000 credits.”
“Excellent, next”
“Jings crivens, sir, I’m Angus McScotsman, Chief Engineering Officer, och aye the noo. I recommend fitting improved combat impulse engines for greater speed and manoeuvrability, and reconfiguring engineering consoles for maximum weapon power. There’s a moose loose aboot this hoose. Estimated cost, 70,000 energy credits.”
“Very good; you in the blue with the pointy ears”
“Well, sir, there is a theme I have on that scheme you have; a flight on the wings of a young girls dreams that flew too far away. Basically we get some shields for 50,000 credits. And some china for me to hold.”
“Thank you, Science Officer Decker. Now, you in the rather… extravagant uniform, what department are you again?”
“Petty Officer Llewelyn-Bowen, sir, Chief of Interior Décor. Now, as it’s the holiday season, I’m thinking ornaments, I’m thinking Vulcan incense, sleigh bells, Bolian candles, Targ fur earmuffs will look simply *fabulous*, we can kit out the whole bridge for a mere 750,000 energy credits.”
“Three quarters of a million credits?”
“Oh yes. If you think about it, the whole game situation of players putting a premium on cosmetic appearance and digital pseudo-rarity from limited time events and such fits in quite well with a post-economic society, if you sort of squint a bit. Tell you what, there’s a lovely jacket for sale. Brown, thigh length, very in this season, a snip at 300,000 credits.”
“So, I can either dramatically increase the effectiveness of both this starship and her away team, or get a jacket?”

Captain’s log, stardate: about a week later. Forced to retreat from confrontation with Klingon patrol, shields unable to withstand concentrated fire and weaponry insufficient to cause significant damage. Beamed down to planet to try and negotiate ceasefire, away team overpowered and captured. On the plus side, Counsellor Ilium said I looked very dashing in the new jacket.

Posted by Zoso at 11:55 am

Hope never abandons you, you abandon it

games, sto, zoso 2 Comments »

After hearing Tim & Jon talking about Star Trek Online on the rebooted How To Murder Time podcast (and Patrick Stewart talking about space exploration on The Infinite Monkey Cage), I thought I might get the old starship out of mothballs and boldy go where quite a lot of people have gone before but I haven’t been for a while. Melmoth brilliantly captured the problem of picking up old characters, and between space and ground hotbars, bridge officers, tactical kits and whatnot, none of which I could really remember, I wouldn’t have stood a chance in a fight with a Clanger, let alone a Klingon battle fleet. Fortunately Star Trek Online has a few nice low-key ways of getting back into the swing of things, such as Duty Officer missions.

Duty Officer missions concern the day-to-day management of a crew of hundreds that the TV series generally glossed over, apart from the classic episode “Annual Performance Evaluation Reviews on the Edge of Forever”; calibrating shields and weapons, hosting ambassadors, granting leave, searching for contraband, that sort of thing. Pack the crew off with a couple of clicks, they return in an hour or two with loot, brilliant.

After a couple of days I thought I really ought to leave Earth Spacedock, though, so with a bit of helpful advice I at least got some decent Bridge Officers slotted up to give USS Hope some useful combat abilities, and took a refresher on Space Combat Basics (1: point ship at enemy 2: mash ‘fire all weapons’ button) followed by Advanced Space Combat (3: point ship away from enemy and repeat step 2 with aft weapons) and Extremely Advanced Space Combat (4: press all number keys then Ctrl-all number keys to see if your Bridge Officers can do something helpful like buff your weapons or debuff enemy shields). There are many tactics and manoeuvres in the Star Trek canon but none really capture my Extremely Advanced Space Combat technique, so I might have to dub it The Zoso Manoeuvre:

“Mister Herring! Attack Pattern Omega. Ensign Izzard! Polarise the hull. Lieutenant Osho! Auxiliary to structural, deploy repair parties.”
“Erm, sir… we haven’t actually received any damage yet.”
“I know. But we probably will. Ensign Lee! Dispersal Pattern Beta.”
“Dispersal patterns are for quantum mines, sir”
“Yes sir. We’re not fitted with mines.”
“Right. Well, if we were fitted with them, deploy them in Dispersal Pattern Beta.”
“Yes sir.”
“Right, I think that’s clicked all the buttons. Oh wait a minute, what’s this one with the little picture of the starship and the arrows coming out of it? That looks useful, do that.”
“That’s… Abandon Ship, Captain.”
“Oh well, I’ve clicked it now. Off we go!”

And so it was that USS Hope II did a couple more days of Duty Officer missions before venturing into space again…

Posted by Zoso at 5:15 pm

Player of a murdered game, owner of a murdered characer, I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next

coh, games, waffle, zoso 2 Comments »

Van Hemlock tweets: “Good grief. “#AvengeCoH” hashtags… seriously? What is wrong with you people?” And of course it is a touch on the histrionic side, but then this is a comic book universe, so arch-enemies and pledges of vengeance aren’t entirely out of character. According to narrative imperative, a group of orphan players should now travel the world, ceaselessly training in MMOG-programming techniques in mountain-top monasteries (that nevertheless have excellent broadband internet infrastructure) before returning to civilisation in the guise of The Group Of People Seeking To Exact Satisfation For A Previous Event (note to editor: there must be a catchier name), unleashing a new superhero MMOG of hitherto unimagined quality, and attracting all existing NCSoft subscribers away from their previous games. There’ll be a climactic confrontation with the board of NCSoft, probably on the window ledge of a skyscraper in the middle of a thunderstorm (it’ll need to be quite a bg window ledge, perhaps with a conference table and lots of chairs), who will ultimately be vanquished, and good will have triumphed.

Until one of The Group Of People Seeking To Exact Satisfaction For A Previous Event turns out to be a robot from the future, and they all meet evil clones of themselves from a parallel universe, and their powers are drained and absorbed by an entity of pure energy from Dimension Z, and they get framed for crimes they didn’t commit and the public turn on them, and then they’re all killed, for a couple of weeks, until the deaths are retconned and then they get cancelled. Or something.

Posted by Zoso at 11:42 am

Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness

games, world of tanks, zoso 3 Comments »

Since they added British tanks to World of Tanks a month or so back, I’ve mostly been playing those. I started out focusing on the medium tech tree, as most of my current garage is occupied by Soviet heavy tanks and tank destroyers, and the Brits eventually get the iconic Centurion. The early tiers always fly past quickly enough, but things bogged down in Tier IV with the Covenanter (also known as the A13 Mk III (Covenanter Mk I (Cruiser Mk V)), presumably as part of a cunning disinformation operation to make the Germans think we had a lot more tanks than we really did by assigning them at least three designations). At that point I decided to start on the British heavy tech tree for a bit of variety, and to make the most out of researching common tank components; before too long I made it up to the Tier V Churchill heavy tank, unlocked the option of the 6-pounder gun for it, and also upgraded the Covenanter to a Tier V Crusader. Looking at the stats the Crusader is a nippy tank that relies on speed and manoeuvrability, firing and rapidly moving, not really my forte, whereas the Churchill ought to be a nice, solid heavy, comparable to the Soviet KV-1, more suited to my preferred technique of slowly trundling forward, pausing occasionally to shoot stuff.

Something rather odd has happened in practise, though. I think my Churchill tank is cursed. I’ve outlined my theories on the random outcomes of World of Tanks battles before, and my overall win rate continues to bobble along around 52%. In the Churchill, over the past week I’ve been on the winning side in 5 out of 21 battles, 24%. I’ve seen some amazing performances, spanning the whole gamut of losing. There were battles where the team decided to demonstrate that it *is* possible for a pick-up group to display incredible precision and co-ordination, by carefully lining up in single file and one-by-one advancing towards concealed enemy emplacements, each one pointlessly exploding just in time for the next lamb to be slaughtered. There were road-rage incidents where two or three players collided during the Parisian traffic chaos of the start of the round and hurled expletives in chat (one of the joys of a multilingual swearing filter is that even if you can’t understand Italian, Polish or Czech, frequent bursts of asterisks convey the general tone of a message), rapidly followed by shells; when your own side are that stupid, even I was rooting for the enemy. There were battles that seemed to be going well, our team having a numerical advantage and closing on the enemy base, until our opposite flank crumbled and the dreaded friendly base occupation bar appeared, our heavy tanks having no chance of getting back in time to defend it. There were battles where my tank was destroyed but our team still had eleven other tanks compared to six enemy, a position we couldn’t possibly lose from, so I’d log out and play another tank, only to discover on reviewing the results later that, sure enough, we had managed to throw away the lead.

On occasion, at the start of a battle, someone will give a stirring pep talk. Something that brings to mind Henry V at the siege of Harfleur or Francois Pienaar reciting Invictus, something like “come on guyz dont suck my last 4 teams have been loosers lets win this”. Hearing that you ponder what connection there might have been between those last four teams, what common thread could have run through them causing those losses… I don’t think the results are entirely down to me, though, over the same timeframe I’ve fought five matches in a KV-1, won four of them, and in 12 rounds on the Crusader I’ve been on the winning side nine times. Maybe that’s it, instead of the usual 50/50 allocation of luck, the Crusader has nicked half of the Churchill’s. Or maybe it’s just a quirk of random outcomes, especially over comparatively small sample sizes. Onwards and (all being well) upwards!

Posted by Zoso at 3:26 pm

Silent Storm Sale

games, zoso 1 Comment »

If anyone, perhaps inspired by XCom, fancies a bit more turn-based action, GOG.com have a weekend sale on strategy & wargames. My pick of the bunch would be S2: Silent Storm Gold Edition, a World War II(ish) game without the strategic layer of XCom but with lashings of turn-based fun. There’s also the even more XCom-y UFO games, IL-2 Sturmovik for flight simmery and a few others.

Posted by Zoso at 5:26 pm

Innovation is the whim of an elite

games, zoso 2 Comments »

You wait all day for a Kickstarter revival of a classic space combat franchise, and then two come along at the same time… Though Egosoft’s X series has been manfully plugging away at galaxy-spanning trade and combat with regular releases since 1999 it never seems to have caught the imagination quite like Elite, so it’ll be interesting to see what Braben & co. come up with. I haven’t chipped in myself yet, as I have to admit to being a touch skeptical after the problems with the two Frontier games and lengthy gestation period of Elite IV (and I’m not sure about Dangerous as a subtitle; I would’ve gone for Elite: Competent, or Elite: Mostly Harmless for preference). Still, fingers crossed they pull it off.

Perhaps inspired by all the space-combat-ness, when I noticed GOG.com had bunch of EA games on sale I bought Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom. Despite the first two being formative PC gaming experiences I’d never played the latter games in the series, so I thought I’d rememdy that, especially as the price of freedom turned out to be $2.39 in the sale. The FMV sequences haven’t aged too badly; sure they’re a bit blocky and low resolution, but in this age of YouTube, mobile phone camera footage and streaming video over not-terribly-fast broadband that’s not terribly jarring. The opening goes on a bit when you’re itching to get into the cockpit and fly (yada yada, retired, farming, bar-room thug, get on with it) but eventually you get into space, and at that point the graphics do rather show their age. Not just the graphics; spoiled by the ubiquity of tutorials in modern games, I’d forgotten than back in Ye Olde Days of 1995 you had these strange artefacts, “manuals” I think they were called, that somehow offered guidance in the forms of “words” printed on “paper”. Course I hadn’t bothered downloading the PDF versions of the manuals, but not to worry, I remembered an ancient technique practised by those who may, entirely hypothetically, have swapped games on tapes or discs without accompanying documentation: the art of pressing every key on the keyboard to see if something happened. And that, as I told the board of enquiry, is why, at the time of the attack by enemy fighters, I was looking out of the left window of the ship with the engines set to 25% power, the windscreen wipers going furiously, and the on-board drinks dispenser midway through producing a cup of synth-Bovril.

Eventually quitting the game (in prehistoric times the convention of pressing ‘Escape’ to bring up a menu hadn’t been standardised) I went off and downloaded the supporting bits and pieces from GOG.com, but I’m not sure I’ll be rushing back. Despite the moment of madness in buying WCIV (at least I managed to resist getting the complete Ultima series at the same time) I’ve got a pile of games of more modern vintage to work through; British tanks in World of Tanks (a weekend of x5 XP and some bonus Premium time catapulted me through to Tier IV and a Matilda and Covenanter), Unity of Command (a well-reviewed operational level wargame that was recently added to Steam), Mass Effect 3 multiplayer challenges, Civilisation 5… Having finished one complete play-through of Borderlands 2 (and started a “True Vault Hunter” second run, plus a couple of other characters) I’ve decided to park it up and perhaps return to it once a few DLC packs are out, so I finally got around to the new XCOM game. In contrast to WCIV there is an extensive tutorial, taking you through just about every aspect of both the strategic and tactical game. It’s hardly “dumbing down”, though, the original UFO: Enemy Unknown had a step-by-step introduction in the manual that I can still (very dimly) remember, XCOM just integrates it into the game itself, and adds characters like your Chief Scientist and Engineer to present the information in-universe. Incidentally, with graphics technology coming on in leaps and bounds from the weird triangular people of the early 90s such that the visuals of cut-scenes no longer need the talents of Mark “Voice of “Luke “Christopher “Maverick” Blair” Skywalker” the Joker” Hamill and Thomas F. “Biff from Back “Todd “Maniac” Marshall” to the Future” Wilson, it seems a touch odd that computer-generated voices haven’t made a similar level of progress from the text-to-speech software that was so much fun with the original SoundBlaster; is it a much more difficult field, or just less costly to get someone in a booth recording dialogue so less impetus to the research?

XCOM seems thoroughly splendid, as most reviews have suggested a worthy update of a classic, and leaving it a while may have been a good idea as I haven’t hit any major bugs yet, possibly thanks to a couple of patches since release. Half the fun is always naming your squad after friends, family, bloggers, film stars etc.; so far I’ve gone with Ramsay “Chopper” MacDonald leading his cabinet from the Second National Ministry, 1st “Viscount” Hailsham proving a dab hand with a sniper rifle, and Philip “RightHon” Cunliffe-Lister extending his brief to specialise in live alien capture. I’m just hoping their rearmament policy isn’t too late…

Posted by Zoso at 2:44 pm
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