Category Archives: war thunder

If you take my advice there’s nothing so nice as messing about on the river

The professed goal of Gaijin’s War Thunder has always been to include air, land and sea combat; it started with aircraft and added ground forces a while back, but there had been little word about naval units (apart from an aquatic April Fool’s aside). Nobody was sure how naval battles might work in War Thunder; the most obvious comparison would be to Wargaming’s Worlds of Tanks, Warplanes and Warships, the latter having launched last year. It’s rather fun, with destroyers, cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers merrily lofting shells, torpedoes and aircraft at each other.

War Thunder is a slightly different beast, though, hewing a touch closer to realism. For Wargaming gameplay and balance come first (though with a firm historical basis; they invest in museums and employ a full-time consultant in Nicholas Moran); Gaijin try more to replicate the historical performance of vehicles (though still within the context of an action game, to a varying extent across the different modes, as opposed to a perfect recreation of historical events). Neither approach is inherently better, incidentally, regardless of the spittle-flecked ravings of mighty forum warriors on both sides. Large scale naval battles tended to be rather drawn-out affairs, so World of Warships speeds things up to keep the action going. Destroyers in particular zip around very nippily, though if you’re in one of the slower battleships before engine upgrades it can feel like you’re limping after the rest of your team wheezing “wait for me!”

War Thunder also features combined arms, players currently flying aircraft and driving tanks in the same battle, where Wargaming has kept the three Worlds Of… completely separate. That allows them to take a fairly abstract approach to aircraft carriers in WoWS, with squadrons/flights of aircraft acting as a single entity guided by the carrier captain.

Gaijin’s announcement last month revealed that, after internal testing showed the difficulties of player controlled capital ships in combined battles, they are taking a slightly different tack for their first naval units and focusing on smaller vessels: patrol boats, motor torpedo boats and such. Coastal units are often overlooked, both by navies themselves and naval historians, but they’re a really interesting part of the war. Rock Paper Shotgun’s Tim Stone mentioned Peter Markham Scott’s “The Battle of the Narrow Seas” in a column last year, a first hand account of British Coastal Forces originally published in 1945 and a fascinating read. The scale certainly makes sense for working alongside existing units in combined arms battles, so though some players are disappointed that they won’t get to set sail in massive battleships it’ll be most interesting to see how it all works out. Some wallpapers have just been released showing Gaijin’s customary attention to detail in modelling; this Fairmile D MGB looks rather splendid:

Woof!

Woof!

(Bonus soundtrack for anyone who has the post title stuck in their head)

Shoot That Flaming Arrow Through My Tank

War. War never changes. Neither does the introduction to posts about War Thunder updates. This week we will be mostly enjoying Update 1.59, “Flaming Arrows“, a title I can only presume to be derived from ABC’s classic 1982 single “Poison Arrow” had Martin Fry been singing about semi-automatic command to line of sight anti-tank guided missiles instead of a broken heart.

There are lashings of new vehicles, including missile-armed tanks for all nations on the ground, new maps, new hangar settings and the plethora of minor tweaks that usually come with these things. I doubt I’ll get to playing with ATGMs any time soon, they’re in the upper tiers of tanks and I’m not so much of a tanker, still bumbling around the mid-tiers on the few occasions I hope into a tin can. Air battles are as splendid as ever, though, looping the loop and defying the ground and the rest of it, so time to grab the eggs-and-fours and get some more bacon delivered, isn’t it? Isn’t it, though? Standard.

I’m sailing away

Say one thing for Gaijin and Wargaming, say they put some effort into April 1st. Fire up the Captain Pugwash theme, put on an eye patch and adopt a strong West Country accent, because War Thunder is sending you out to do a bit of privateering in the Golden Hind:

Port to sherry, and a medium-dry sherry to port!

Port to sherry, and a medium-dry sherry to port!

The ship looks fantastic (as does everything in War Thunder). Combat is a bit tricky, requiring you to account for the roll of the ship when delivering broadsides (trickier than Pirates of the Burning Sea, as far as I can remember, it’s been a while…) You don’t want to stray outside the playing area either:

The kraken wakes!

The kraken wakes!

The ultimate goal is for War Thunder to feature naval combat alongside its planes and tanks, but there’s been very little information about how it might work. I have to say I preferred last year’s magnificent WWII Walkers, but this event could be a cunning way of doing a bit of testing of some elements of aquatic combat, and of course presents the ideal opportunity to break out some more Excellent Pirate Jokes:

Q: What aeroplane do pirates fly?
A: A HawkARRRRRR! Hurricane

Q: What part of the Hurricane do pirates like the best?
A: The wing spARRRRRRRRR!

Q: Where do pirates conveniently shop?
A: At SPARRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Q: What do pirates call minerals with readily discernible faces?
A: SpaRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Q: What term do pirates use for poles that carry or support sails?
A: SpARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Q: Does ‘spar’ have any other meanings?
A: Yes, but I’m bored now. Aren’t you bored?

Q: I was bored after the first one.
A: Right. Well I’m going to get a cup of coffee.

Q: Can I have one?
A: No.

Q: Oh go on.
A: All right then.

Wargaming completed their triumvirate of Worlds Of… with World of Warships last year, good fun, but I rather burnt out on it a while back. I did have to get it patched up, though, for the excellent Cap and Goldfish:

He can breathe under water because he has amphibious nostrils

He can breathe under water because he has amphibious nostrils

And their bathtub battles:

Splish splash, I was taking a bath

Splish splash, I was taking a bath

Can’t you see I’m easily bothered by persistence?

After last year’s Giant Snail Attack, Gaijin added a couple of events to War Thunder on April 1st this year. Firstly “Unrealistic Battles”, with everyone flolloping around in tanks reminiscent of the inflatable decoy vehicles used in World War II, gun barrels bouncing in a mildly disturbing manner. Instead of firing dangerous explosive shells the tanks lobbed vegetables at each other, able to load potatoes or carrots; in a not-so-subtle dig at World of Tanks they also had health bars.

I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like

I’ve got a bike, you can ride it if you like

A fun gag, but a couple of battles were enough to get the joke, it wasn’t a mode I’d spend a great deal of time playing. The modellers have a commendable eye for detail, though; activating the X-ray style module viewer uncovered the bicycle powerplant of the vehicles, and close inspection revealed the gunner standing in the turret with a slingshot and a bucket of potatoes as his ammunition supply.

The second item, “March to Victory”, was teased beforehand with a mysterious silhouette on the War Thunder Facebook page. A Development Diary blog post fleshed out the (alternate) history of the ST-1 walking tank:

He do the song about the sweet lovin' woman, he do the song about the knife

He do the song about the sweet lovin’ woman, he do the song about the knife

In the game itself, a special event gave players a line-up of regular tanks and planes plus the ST-1 (or, for the Germans and Americans, the captured/evaluation version, the former thankfully not called “wanzers“). Using a point-based system everyone had to start out in tanks, but by securing objectives and getting kills then enough points could be earned to spawn a walker:

I keep the ends out for the tie that binds

I keep the ends out for the tie that binds

The walkers were fantastic, very dieselpunk/Weird War II, garnering considerable interest in more permanent availability. I’d certainly love to see them put in another appearance, perhaps even (in the distant future) as the basis of a whole spin-off game, but just opening up the March to Victory event now and again or allowing players to set it up as a custom battle would be good.

All the old paintings on the tombs they do the sand dance, don't you know?

All the old paintings on the tombs they do the sand dance, don’t you know?

War Thunder Update 1.47

It’s patch time in everyone’s favourite online World War II combined arms tank-and-plan type game, War Thunder, and update 1.47 is all about the bigg ‘uns (fnarr, etc.)  I’m sorry, I’ll read that again: update 1.47 is all about the big guns.

On the ground, US tanks are now out of closed beta and available for everybody to research, in case you have a hankering to re-enact Fury, and there are a smattering of new tanks for all three nations, most notably including the super-heavy Panzer VIII Maus. Continuing the ginormo-trend in the air, 1.47 brings the B-29 Superfortress, with the heaviest bombloads yet seen in the game. Slightly disappointingly there are no new British aircraft, but the word is that a whole Fleet Air Army tree is on the way, hopefully in 1.49. Another new arrival is the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, Scourge of the Atlantic:

A bunch of Fockes

A bunch of Fockes

There’s the usual plethora of tweaks to various flight models, new decals, contrail effects, binoculars for tankers and such, full details on the website as ever, and one more fairly significant change, perhaps most immediately obvious when you first log in…

Until this update, your first victory each day with each nation would get a 2x multiplier to research rewards, a welcome boost, especially in the high tiers as things rather slowed down. War Thunder now has a daily reward scheme, similar to many other free-to-play titles:

"What's on the end of the stick, Vic?" "It's a crate, Bob" "I know, but that doesn't rhyme"

“What’s on the end of the stick, Vic?”
“It’s a crate, Bob”
“I know, but that doesn’t rhyme”

Each day you log in you receive a crate containing tantalising and exotic rewards (or, on Day 1, in most cases a small boost to research or currency earnings for a few matches). With this being less than the previous 100% boost per country, obviously people are reacting very calmly to the new system and not launching into froth-spackled diatribes prophesying doom, because this is the internet and everyone is very calm and relaxed, so that’s nice. Similar to the switch from unlocking whole tiers of aircraft to individually researching them it does look like this will, overall, slow down research to some extent, but there are potentially advantages as well, particularly if you prefer to focus on a single country, and there are some interesting aspects, like team boosts that apply to everybody you fly with. Certainly something to keep an eye on, to see what might be in that oh-so-shiny looking Day 6 crate if nothing else, though it does mean that War Thunder now has a Start to Crate time of zero.

Along with the daily rewards, you can buy more crates (using “real money” golden eagles) in an item shop with a random chance of various rewards including boosters, or a tank or plane. I’m not really a fan of these real money lockbox/crates, but they seem to be becoming ubiquitous. Ah well, I’ll save my money, and maybe go spin the roulette wheel of Kickstarter again instead…

Happy Christmas (War Thunder isn’t over)

Just in time for Christmas, Gaijin have unleashed Update 1.45 for War Thunder. The main addition is American tanks, joining their German and Soviet armoured brethren in the Ground Forces part of the game, but there are also a few new aircraft, maps and assorted tweaks; full details in the patch notes. One of the new features is tow ropes for tanks, allowing you to rescue unfortunate team-mates who’ve ended up on their sides; to avoid griefing a tow has to be both offered and accepted, and you can only target friendly vehicles, but there must be potential for some future tug-of-war type game modes…

Oh, and the hangers have been spruced up a little for the festive season as well:

Merry Tankmas

Merry Tankmas

War Thunder Update 1.43

War. War never changes. War Thunder, on the other hand, changes quite a lot when major patches are released, such as the 7GB of Update 1.43 ready to descend upon your intertubes like a Lancaster loaded with Small Bomb Containers, only packed with shiny new game features instead of 20lb Mk IV fragmentation bombs. Update 1.43 brings new aircraft, new armoured vehicles, new game modes, new decals and camouflage, new sounds and new maps, the latter sadly not including New South Wales, New York New York (so good they named it New York) or Newton Abbot to really emphasise the newness.

With tanks being a relatively recent addition, some of the more major changes are around ground forces. Combined arms battles featuring both tanks and aircraft have great potential, but striking a balance between the iron ground beasts and their airborne bombing predators (and the fighters that prey upon those bombers in turn, and self-propelled anti-aircraft units) is quite a challenge. Until this patch, Arcade tank battles didn’t include aircraft at all. In the new mode everyone starts in tanks, and if you earn enough points you get the chance to spawn an attack aircraft or bomber for a very limited time (not one of your own aircraft, from a pre-selected list, with experience you earn on it going towards your tanks). When one player activates that ability there’s a global notification, and other players get the chance to spawn fighters to either escort or attack the bomber.

Let's go fly a bomber, up to the highest... what rhymes with bomber?

Let’s go fly a bomber, up to the highest… what rhymes with bomber?

It’s an interesting tweak, and certainly gets around one of the main issues with a mixed Arcade mode, the fact that aircraft get to reload bombs in mid-air.

Realistic Battles also now use a points-based system for selecting vehicles. You’re placed in a match depending on the highest Battle Rating (BR) of anything in your garage/hanger, then each vehicle has a cost to spawn with some scaling based on BR (within limits, you can’t get into a match based on a late war King Tiger, then zerg rush a bunch of incredibly cheap tankettes).

What do points make?  Il-2 Sturmoviks!

What do points make? Il-2M Sturmoviks!

Aircraft are more expensive, I believe nobody starts with enough resources to fly, so again you have to earn enough points with your tanks before you can unleash a r(ai/eig)n of aerial terror.

I worry a little that in both cases the team doing well are further rewarded, but the few matches I’ve played so far have worked out fairly well so it should be fun to see how the modes bed in.

Tankers also have a couple of other new toys to play with in this update. When viewing vehicles in the garage you can switch to an armour inspection view, showing the thickness of your protection (matron), or an X-ray mode demonstrating just how exciting it was to be a tank crewman sitting on top of a tank filled with flammable fuel, next to a pile of explosive ammunition:

Rock and Roll(ed homogeneous armour)

Rock and Roll(ed homogeneous armour)

The X-ray view is also used in a new post-destruction replay screen that might forestall a little of the “how on earth did I die then?”, showing the path of the shell that finished you off and the resultant havoc it wreaked, a bit like the slightly gruesome Sniper Elite X-Ray Kill Cam:

At this point, Driver Geoff began to think it might have been a mistake to mount an anti-aircraft gun on the back of his minicab

At this point, Driver Geoff began to think it might have been a mistake to mount an anti-aircraft gun on the back of his minicab

An ongoing bone of contention for some players is the matchmaking system, where each plane is assigned a Battle Rating (BR) for matchmaking purposes. These Battle Ratings are adjusted based on player performance, which can result in situations where the aircraft of countries that attract a smaller pool of more dedicated pilots (primarily Germany) receive less favourable matchmaking than the more popular countries (the USA & USSR). It’s not really an issue in the mixed Arcade Battles, but comes to the fore in nation vs nation Historical Battles where the relative popularity and strengths of different types of aircraft are much more of a factor. Historical matchmaking, based on the actual service dates of aircraft, is frequently suggested, but I’m not sure that’s a terribly good idea, what with every country always frantically working to make aerial combat as unfair and unbalanced as they possibly can, with varying degrees of success over the course of the war. Gaijin have acknowledged the issue and announced plans for a fundamental overhaul in the future that will do away with Battle Ratings in Historical Battles, so there aren’t any major changes to that in Update 1.43.

The aerial side of things hasn’t been neglected, though, with every country getting four or five new aircraft (plus eight for Japan, whose tree was a little on the sparse side), and assorted tweaks, updates and corrections to flight models, bomb loads and such.

English Electric Canberra, one of the new aircraft

Together in (English) Electric (Canberra) dreams

There’s a new aerial mode as well, Air Races, if you’re tired of endless destruction; a nice scenic tropical island with a bountiful local harvest of floating yellow rings to fly through:

FIIIIIIVVVVEEEE GOOOOOLLLDDDD RIIIIINNNGGGGSS

FIIIIIIVVVVEEEE GOOOOOLLLDDDD RIIIIINNNGGGGSS

Automatic squads are another innovation. If you join a battle on your own you’ll be grouped up with another random pilot or (unless you disable the feature in the game options). With some minor additional rewards for scoring kills in the vicinity of squadmates it’s a nice nudge to try and encourage a little more teamwork, though unlikely to have a particularly dramatic effect in general.

All in all, plenty of good stuff to get your teeth into!

Some kind of madness is starting to evolve

Summertime Madness in War Thunder is having a good crack at living up to its name with the Hunting Frenzy phase of the event. To secure a Tier II premium plane you need to win 125 matches in a week. That’s quite a lot of matches, in case you were wondering; six hours of solid War Thunder every day for one plane, assuming an average of ten minutes per match and a 50% win rate, if my rough calculations are correct. If you want all five premium planes, well… more back-of-envelope jottings suggest that if you do nothing but play War Thunder for all seven days, without bothering about fripperies like “eating” and “sleeping”, you’ll be cognitively dysfunctional at best and possibly dead at the end of it. Remember to eat and sleep, kids. Meanwhile, our guinea pig will need to be maintaining a 62% win rate to earn all five planes, difficult enough even before factoring in sleep deprivation and hallucinations.

Predictably enough, after the initial excitement over the prizes mentioned in the Summer Madness announcement, some players expressed mild displeasure at the onerous requirements, in much the manner of a toddler throwing a tantrum after finding out that a promise of ice cream was contingent upon first tidying their room. I have to admit I’m slightly surprised at the effort required, Tier II premium planes aren’t terribly expensive to buy, and of limited use in earning research for high-tier planes (there’s a significant penalty when researching something more than one tier higher); I didn’t think they were going to be handed out like flyers for an Edinburgh fringe show, but I thought most players would have a good chance of earning one.

Having match wins as the requirement is also a bit unusual, with most previous events being kill-oriented. A requirement for kills certainly didn’t help with team play, with objectives being ignored and even more of an every-plane-for-itself attitude than usual, but at least it was something within your control. It’s enormously frustrating when, in a Domination match, you pull off an amazing 300mph airfield capture and knock out a couple of enemy aircraft before succumbing to overwhelming odds, then look around the map and see three quarters of your team chasing a single enemy bomber in the middle of nowhere while the enemy team leisurely recapture the airfield with no opposition. The event is limited to Tier II, III and IV aircraft as well, which rules out the old standby of grabbing starter biplanes and heading in to the typically much shorter matches that they enjoy. Requirements based on matches played, team wins and aircraft restrictions are understandable, but combined with the sheer numbers in question it becomes a massive time sink.

There are a few consolation prizes; reaching 25 wins at each eligible tier for each country earns a pile of silver lions and a chance at winning the premium plane in question in a raffle, so I’m plugging away at that, just playing Tier III Japan rather than flitting from country to country for the daily double experience. It’s going to be interesting to see how the rest of the event plays out, and what the requirements for the Tier IV premium aircraft might be…

Gaming Diary: War Thunder

I do like a bit of an event in games and War Thunder held a “100K Festival” last weekend to celebrate 100,000 concurrent players, handing out 100 Gold Eagles for every 100 kills (to a maximum of 1,000) and 100,000 Silver Lions for 10 victories. 1,000 Gold Eagles aren’t to be sniffed at, but even when recklessly going for death or glory (or cake) it’s difficult to average more than one kill per minute of game time, and, splendid as War Thunder is, it gets quite tiring after a couple of hours let alone 17. Fairly normal play with a couple of matches per country per day at least netted 100 Eagles, better than a poke in the eye with a pointed stick, and I rounded things out with a few Reserve biplane matches just to get up to 10 victories – the matches are nice and short to start with, going all-out for ground targets stands a good chance of boosting your team to victory, and you don’t need to feel too guilty about strafing AI armoured cars and emplacements.

If a couple of hours of War Thunder gets tiring, a 72 hour non-stop round the world (simulated) flight would be the act of a madman. A madman like Zeke from Iron Man Mode, who did just that. I popped along to his stream a few times over the weekend, a fine distraction while grinding away at game events with its mix of sleep-deprived piloting, live music, quizzes and cat food. Many congratulations to everyone involved, raising over $2,000 for Child’s Play, it’s not too late to pop over and donate to boost that total even more (unless you’ve just unearthed this post as part of a curious digital archaeological expedition in the year 3073 when poverty has been eliminated, in which case it probably is too late. But well done on the whole utopian future thing.)

Away from the big festival, some of the How To Murder Time posse have also been Thundering in a War-like fashion. It can be something of a challenge to get ten or eleven people playing together as in-game groups are limited to four players, to prevent organised teams completely dominating random matches, but Custom Missions work rather well. You can choose the game mode, mission type, map, number of players/bots etc., allowing everyone to shoot the bally heck out of each other without interference from random strangers (don’t forget to set a password on the Custom Mission if you don’t want anyone else dropping by!), or to team up and shoot the bally heck out of some hapless AI opposition. They’re also an excellent training venue, you can pick an appropriate map to practise various aspects of the game like landing on airfields, torpedo attacks or (most importantly) activating coloured aerobatic smoke and making pretty patterns in the sky.

You really have to play the standard PvP matches to earn resources and unlock new aircraft, though, so we also try and form up two or three teams with similar Battle Ratings and have the squad leaders simultaneously click the “To Battle” button, something of a challenge in itself…
“OK, after three, click ‘To Battle’. One, two…”
“On three, or after three?”
“After three. Three, then click. Right. One, two, three, To Battle!”
“One two three two?”
“No, one two three *to*, tee oh, to battle…”
“OK, I’ve clicked To Battle!”
“No! After three!”
“Five, sir!”
(etc)

Results are somewhat mixed, but we generally have a reasonable chance of ending up in the same match, albeit usually on opposing teams, rendering Cunning Plans on the shared voice server somewhat less cunning…
“Don’t tell the other team, but I’m going to attack the left hand bombing target!”
“Hey, chief; I might be wrong, but I think some of the enemy might be coming to bomb our right hand target…”

With Ground Forces moving into open beta I’ve clanked around in a few tank battles, nothing terribly serious; they’re fun enough but I think flying will remain as my primary focus in the game. I’ve updated the Beginner’s Guide with a very rudimentary guide on getting into a tank battle, starting with some Fascinating Tank Facts:

“Aeroplanes, invented by Ian Aeroplane in 1903, really caught on with the military in World War I, initially for reconnaissance, then for bombing and ground attack. One area in which they didn’t fare well was trench warfare, where manhandling bulky aircraft “over the top” then pushing them through no man’s land towards enemy trenches proved rather ineffective, so in 1916 Ian Tank had the idea of taking an aeroplane, removing the wings and propeller, and adding armour plating and caterpillar tracks to create the vehicle that bore his name: the Armoured Fighting Ian. The British government wished to hide the true nature of these new vehicles, though, so created a cover story that hundreds of sweater vests were being sent to the troops, with shipping crates stencilled appropriately, and the nickname stuck.”

Disclaimer: Fascinating Tank Facts may be neither Fascinating nor Facts. Your results may be at risk if you use these facts in a school assignment. Terms and conditions do not apply.

Cry ‘Havoc’, and let slip the tanks of War (Thunder)

Despite my doom-laden forecast of overloaded servers it seems that last weekend’s Golden Battles in War Thunder went without a hitch, so I guess Gaijin have beefed up their infrastructure a bit, perhaps in readiness for unleashing clanking steel beasts. Sure enough, today has seen Update 1.41 released, bringing a few new planes (including three more Griffon Spitfires, hurrah!) and, perhaps most significantly, moving Ground Forces into Open Beta, making tanks available to all players.

Aufklärungspanz 'er? I hardly knew 'er

Aufklärungspanz ‘er? I hardly knew ‘er!

Any progress from Closed Beta has been wiped, but according to Gaijin that’s now it, no more progress wipes. Just for the moment Arcade Battles seem to be tank-only, presumably to let people get used to things and research a few vehicles before unleashing hordes of Stukas and Sturmoviks, but you can set up a Custom Mission if you’d like to test out combined arms operations with some friends.

If anyone is after an extra early tank, this month’s PC Gamer magazine in the UK (it has Civilization: Beyond Earth on the cover) comes with a code to unlock the Aufklärungspanzer 38(t), as pictured above, a German reconnaissance tank with a 20mm gun that should be quite useful for taking pot-shots at aircraft as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your tank engines!