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

Up from the depths, thirty stories high

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Testing has started on the next major update to War Thunder, so I wandered off to the development server to see what’s new. Hopping in to a trusty Hurricane, the mission briefing screen warned of a terrifying new Japanese secret weapon; what could it be?

What's that coming over the hill?

What’s that coming over the hill?

Better take a closer look…

Giant snail at 11 o'clock! No sir, that's not banter, it really is a giant snail.

Giant snail at 11 o’clock! No sir, that’s not banter, it really is a giant snail.

Could it be a giant mutant radioactive version of Gaijin Entertainment’s snail mascot? I think it could…

With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound...

With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound…

Yes, for one day only, War Thunder went a bit Kaiju, with one team trying to destroy Gaijilla and the other defending the giant snail-beast. Really rather fun! Could be an interesting asymmetric battle type in the proper game as well, though obviously you’d need to slightly tweak things to fit into a more realistic setting, perhaps having a formidable battleship like Tirpitz or Yamato as the main target. Or Mecha-Streisand.

Hey, chief, I might be wrong, but I think we're flying into a giant snail. This makes me feel... scared of the giant snail.

Hey, chief, I might be wrong, but I think we’re flying into a giant snail. This makes me feel… scared of the giant snail.

 

Posted by Zoso at 8:33 pm

War Thunder – Ground Forces Beta

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Towards the end of last year I completed a bunch of challenges in War Thunder that gave a chance of participating in the ground forces closed beta, and the other week the Hand of Fate had a good old rummage in the Metaphorical Top Hat of Beta Entry Raffle Tickets and drew out beige 172, that’s number 172 on a sort-of-beige, sort-of-light-brown ticket, corresponding to my account, so I get to play with tanks, hurrah!

I haven’t had much of a chance so far, the beta server isn’t up all the time, but I did get to bimble around a bit this weekend. The Ground Forces NDA has been partially lifted, participants can talk about the beta and post content as long as they don’t focus on bugs and negative aspects. Some people seized on “don’t publish negative remarks” as a totalitarian attempt to whitewash opinion, “All War Thunder doubleplusgood. Ground forces beta ungood? Crimethink! Send to joycamp.” To me, though, it seems a reasonable enough approach, acknowledging the voracious appetite for information from some quarters that would be fed by leaks anyway, while trying to balance the actual testing aspects of a genuine beta with consequent rough edges.

So the first thing that strikes you is that it’s terribly pretty. There’ve been plenty of screenshots and videos showcasing how good the tanks look, and they don’t disappoint when you open up your garage. Here’s a King Tiger, complete with Zimmerit coating:

Tiger II in the garage

Tiger II (“Henschel” turret) in the garage

If the tanks seem a little plain, you have access to the same decal system that aircraft have, allowing for further decorations such as kill markings, unit insignia, or a spot of anthropomorphising. This is Gerald the ISU122, he’s a little bit grumpy:

Here's looking at you, kid

Here’s looking at you, kid

General gameplay is broadly similar tank combat in other games: drive around with WASD, point turret at things with mouse, click button to fire gun. Initial matches were mostly spent getting to grips with controls and such, it’s far too early for a definitive opinion, but it all seems fun enough so far. I saw a couple of maps during my beta sessions, both Domination-style with three control points. With both sides having a plentiful supply of respawning reinforcements in Arcade mode, the few battles I was in all ended via points being captured rather than one side being wiped out.

Capturing a point in an IS2

Capturing a point in an IS2

As with aircraft, damage is based on hit location and equipment modules rather than hitpoints. I managed to get a flanking shot on a Tiger II, the red text on the right shows the damage caused:

Tiger, Tiger, shortly to be burning bright

Tiger, Tiger, shortly to be burning bright

One of the things I’m particularly interested in is the interaction between aircraft and tanks when the two can play together. One of the maps I saw was tank-only, but the other also featured airfields for combined arms gameplay, so I took a few planes out for a spin:

Strafing a Jagdpanther

Strafing a Jagdpanther

The only aircraft available were the reserve biplanes with an armament consisting of a couple of light machine guns and (if sufficiently upgraded) two very small bombs, not a threat to the high-tier tanks being tested, more of a novelty than a serious attack option. It did give an idea of how combined forces might play, though. One challenge is finding a target; the tanks on your own team helpfully have name labels to avoid friendly fire incidents, but there’s no highlighting of enemy tanks, you need to get right down at low altitude to spot them yourself. It’s rather fun swooping around, looking for movement, knowing the tanks down below are other players rather than AI targets, but in doing that you open yourself up to a number of hazards. Enemy aircraft are always a danger, if you get too focused on ground targets then you’re easy prey for opposition fighters. There are also AI anti-aircraft units dotted around the map, though friendly tanks can sort those out:

Ack ack ack ack ack

Ack ack ack ack ack

Tanks aren’t defenceless against aircraft, in Arcade mode you get a lead indicator to help with targeting enemy air units:

Achtung, Spitfire!

Achtung, Spitfire! Oh, wait, I-15, don’t worry…

By all accounts air kills are possible with large calibre guns if the shooter is lucky/skilled enough, I lofted a couple of 88mm shells in the general direction of enemy planes, but the Elefant tank destroyer isn’t really designed for anti-air work. There weren’t any dedicated AA vehicles available during this particular test, I figured the 20mm autocannon of the Panzer II might be quite effective against aircraft:

Pom pom pom pom pom

Pom pom pom pom pom

Needless to say, though, every time I took it out for a drive the skies suddenly cleared, so I didn’t bring any aircraft down with it.

A wider range of aircraft will mix things up a bit more, obviously heavier bombs, rockets and cannons will pose far more of a threat to ground vehicles, but I don’t think planes will have things all their own way. It’s going to be rather interesting to see how it all develops.

Posted by Zoso at 4:33 pm

Changes to the War Thunder research system in Patch 1.37

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Father Christmas arrives a week early for keen War Thunderers, with Patch 1.37 today bringing a veritable sack-load of new goodies: new planes, new maps, new flight models, DirectX 11 support, and perhaps most noticeably a major change in the research system. Previously you had a rank for each country, each plane had a rank, and achieving a new rank in an air force unlocked all the planes of that rank. This system had several good points, but a few disadvantages; progression could be a bit uneven as a new rank might not unlock planes of your preferred type (the US tree had a particularly bad Fighter Gap pre-v1.33 between the rank 13 P-51 Mustang and rank 18 F-80 Shooting Star, only partially filled by a couple of F8F Bearcat variants at ranks 15 and 16), or even any planes at all. In 1.37 you pick one aircraft at a time to research per country, a little more like World of Tanks, but with some key differences.

Aircraft are now grouped into five Eras instead of twenty Ranks, broadly chronologically but with a few tweaks to reflect their performance. These eras are also used for matchmaking, but with slightly fuzzy edges and player performance factored in, so a mid-late Era II plane with a good pilot might well be grouped with an early Era III plane with a poorer pilot. Here’s the first four Eras of the new British tree:

NewResearchTree

You can see the Beaufighter Mk VIc in Era II is “in research”; every match played with Britain will contribute towards unlocking the Beaufighter, even flying biplanes will contribute towards jet research (though not very much…)

To unlock a new Era, you have to research a number of planes of the previous era. At the very left of the screen you can see “2/4″ under the “II”: I’ve researched two Era II planes (the Hurricane Mk II and Spitfire Mk I), and need to research two more to move on to Era III, so I couldn’t immediately research the Era III Beaufighter Mk X after the Mk VIc. Premium planes count towards this number, though, so if I finish researching the Beaufighter VIc and buy a Boomerang Mk I or D.520, that will allow me to move on.

To unlock a specific plane, you’ll need to have researched the previous plane in its line (connected via an arrow). In this example I haven’t started on the Wellington bombers yet, to research the Mk Ic/L, I’ll have to first research the Mk Ic. Some planes are “stacked”, like the Spitfire Mk II (clicking on it will reveal two variants, the Mk IIa and Mk IIb). You need to research them separately, but you don’t need to unlock them all to progress to the next aircraft in the line (the Spitfire Mk V in this case).

Individual module research on each aircraft has also been tweaked slightly so that you research a particular module, rather than modules automatically unlocking according to a predefined sequence previously. You can select the module to research in the usual Upgrade screen, if you complete that research in a battle, you’ll get a pop-up afterwards letting you know, and allowing you to select the next module to research:

NewModuleUnlock

The general consensus seems to be that the new system may be slightly quicker for advancing all the way through one specific line of planes, but quite a bit slower for researching everything; a lot depends on the rate at which Research Points (“RP”, the replacement for XP in the new system) are awarded, which could well be tweaked a few times as the system beds in. There’s a Developer Diary that goes into a bit more detail, it looks like victory for a team will be a major factor in the number of RP received, which could be a positive factor in encouraging good teamwork, or equally terribly frustrating if you perform magnificently but lose a match due to a team full of buffoons. So much the same as ever, really!

Posted by Zoso at 5:24 pm

They’re all frightfully keen, those magnificent men in their flying machines

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It’s a busy old time for virtual pilots of World War II(ish) crates with World of Warplanes hitting official release this week and War Thunder ramping up for its launch on the PlayStation 4 and the addition of ground forces.

I popped back in to the World of Warplanes open beta last month when they added British planes, and patched it up for release a couple of days ago. The controls certainly seem to have improved from earlier beta versions so WoWP is perfectly fine for a bit of flying-type fun, but not enough to displace War Thunder as my dogfighter of choice. Still, I’ve got a bit of premium time left from tokens earned during the beta, so I’ll at least try to use that for a bit of a leg-up towards a Spitfire. I won’t be going all out to be First to the Top, though, that way madness lies. I didn’t think it was a particularly good idea when Blizzard started handing out server first achievements, and that was without an incentive like ten years of premium account time.

As a canny marketing stunt/completely coincidental bit of timing/evil underhanded plot, Gaijin are also dangling a carrot to encourage War Thunder players to jump through a few in-game hoops, offering players the chance of participating in the closed beta test for ground forces by completing daily challenges over the next three weeks. The first challenge, to destroy 60 ground targets, was pretty straightforward. The second, to shoot down 35 opponents, was rather trickier as you had to be flying one of five specific aircraft (one per country), which made Arcade battles a little unusual as many players quit after losing their challenge aircraft rather than respawning. Today’s was better, shoot down 30 fighters, sorted out with a few trips back to low level furballs. I won’t be going mad to try and complete every challenge, but it’s quite fun mixing up the type of aircraft you fly and way you play to at least have a crack at different challenges.

The announcement also offered a hint at dates, “The testing itself is currently scheduled to start before December 4th”, so it looks like tanks might be coming in early 2014. I had a brief peek at the forums to see if there might be any more hints, but after seven pages of frothing excitement, bitter complaints and animated GIFs I had to close the browser window for fear of developing photosensitive epilepsy.

More positively on the forums there’s a rather splendid British Tech Tree Project, a collaborative effort that’s produced an impressive looking possible tree. Aircraft suggestions usually range from “You know that plane, yeah? The one with the guns and this and that, yeah? That would be all amazeballs they should totally put that in the game, you know what I’m saying?” to “Gaijin must implement pastes Wikipedia list of all military aircraft 1934 – 1952“, but this group have taken the time to sift through the possibilities, assemble cohesively themed branches with suitable ranking and produce a graphical version of the tree in keeping with the in-game interface. Most impressive.

Posted by Zoso at 11:36 pm

My position on cake is pro-having it, and pro-eating it

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Gaijin are celebrating the birthday of War Thunder by giving away presents rather than demanding them; there’s a discount on plane packs bought through Gaijin, experience bonuses, some in-game plane discounts, that sort of thing. Particularly good value is 50% off a full year of premium account time, bringing the price down to 7,600 Gold Eagles. How much that costs in actual money depends how you buy those Gold Eagles; if you haven’t already bought the Ace Advance Pack on Steam it’s a really good deal, it includes 10,000 Gold Eagles (enough for the discounted 12 month option with a bit left over), a couple of useful premium aircraft and two months of premium account time that stack on top of any existing time, all for £24.99 (the Gold Eagles alone would cost about £40 if you bought them direct). If you’re fairly confident that you’ll be playing for the next year that’s not a bad deal at all.

Unfortunately someone is being a bit of a party pooper at the moment and launching a DDOS attack on their servers, but hopefully that’ll be sorted out before too long, as the discount premium offer only runs to 6AM (GMT) November 4th.

Posted by Zoso at 3:27 pm

War Thunder – Tanks in Advance

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There hasn’t been much concrete information on ground forces in War Thunder; the odd tank-y screenshot, assorted rumours about how game modes might work… until now. At the Russian IgroMir gaming exhibition people can play a build of the game including tanks, and Gaijin streamed 20 minutes of gameplay, captured by a YouTuber:

As a game expo demo with limited time and random visitors in control it shouldn’t be taken too definitively, but it’s rather interesting. The commentary is in Russian, but a a helpful Redditor has translated the salient points.

Some bits that stood out for me:

1m00s: a combined hanger/garage, with both tanks and planes. As far as I know, Wargaming are keeping World of Tanks and World of Warplanes (and presumably World of Warships) as entirely separate games, albeit with a combined account for access; War Thunder chucks everybody in together (or at least gives the option to; they’re saying there will also be tank-only and plane-only modes).

2m54s: KV-1 on the move. War Thunder looks good in the air, and allowing for the low graphical settings and streaming limitations it looks good on the ground as well, nice detail on the tank and scenic landscapes.

4m20s: Tank on Tank. World of Tanks/Warplanes have hybrid damage systems, with some locational damage but fundamentally a “health bar” that has to be knocked down, tanks in War Thunder will have a similar system to the planes, completely locational damage. Couple of impressive explosions, especially at 5m00s.

9m27s: Artillery strike. It seems like some tanks will be able to call artillery strikes, perhaps a way of giving lighter tanks something to do against heavy tanks apart from ping shells off their armour. In this instance the driver, perhaps somewhat unwisely, drives straight through the barrage he just called in, but without fatal damage.

10m23s: Achtung – Panzer! A second round, this time selecting the German garage, and a brief glimpse of a combined tech tree (somewhat truncated for the demo, presumably).

11m57s: Stuka? I hardly know ‘er! Flying a Ju 87 looks familiar for current players. An enemy plane is clearly marked, as are friendly tanks, but enemy tanks aren’t highlighted so won’t be easy to spot, especially from high altitude.

13m16s: Bombs away! A tank kill from the air. One of the question marks over combined arms gameplay; getting hit with a 250kg bomb without warning won’t be much fun for a tank, but friendly air cover, and possibly player controlled anti-aircraft guns, should make it more of a challenge. Also, in Arcade mode at least, the ability to grab another vehicle from your garage will lessen the sting, especially if it’s a fighter and you can find your aerial nemesis.

14m31s: Wicked air, man. A StuG hits a rock at speed and flips; not sure if that’s early build issues, or a more lackadaisical approach to physics in Arcade mode.

15m40s: Careful with that barrage, Eugene. Another artillery strike, this time successfully taking out an enemy tank… and a friendly as well.

There’s no firm word of timescales yet (just the obligatory Soon™). With War Thunder being a launch title for the Playstation 4 perhaps that’ll be their target, either way my interest has certainly been piqued for ground forces.

Posted by Zoso at 6:05 pm

War Thunder Update 1.35 – Events

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War Thunder released an update this week, version 1.35. It’s got the usual patch gubbins: new maps and planes, tweaks to cockpits and armaments, that sort of thing (full details in the change log). Something I’m particularly enjoying so far are Events. Aircraft in War Thunder are arranged into ranks roughly by their capabilities rather than strict dates to try and avoid mismatches (it’s not perfect, but the matchmaker does a decent job most of the time), and though Historical Battles limit the nationalities involves you can still end up with rather ahistorical fights like 1942-era British and American aircraft taking on the Russians in Korea, land based aircraft on naval maps and vice-versa, and significant numbers of Premium aircraft based on prototypes or one-off instances of captured aircraft. It’s fine in game-terms, but events offer something slightly more interesting historically.

You can still hit the “To Battle” button as normal, but there’s a new button on the screen, Events:
shot 2013.09.28 20.13.57

Click this for a list of available events. Currently there are three available at any one time, and they change each day, though I imagine both those parameters can be tweaked. The really, really important thing to notice here is that events can be Arcade, Historical or Full Real, currently there’s one of each per day. They can also have slightly tweaked rulesets, for example an Arcade Battle but with no respawns. The difficulty level isn’t quite as obvious as it could be, so there are reports of people joining in a Full Real Battle without realising it, resulting in a lot of crashing on take-off (via Reddit). Note the difficulty at the top of the event screen!
shot 2013.09.28 20.46.52

Events are (broadly) historical scenarios, with a limited selection of aircraft available based more on actual combatants than in-game ranks, as shown in the list on the event screen. Planes are colour coded: red if you don’t have sufficient rank in that air force, dark yellow if you’re high enough rank but haven’t bought it yet, bright yellow if you own it. For Historical and Full Real battles you just pick the one you want to use as normal, for Arcade you only need one qualifying aircraft to take part, but you’ll be more effective if your whole hanger is eligible. Arcade teams are also still mixed nationalities.

I’m finding the events a fun way of mixing things up between different levels, countries and difficulty modes, well worth a look.

Posted by Zoso at 9:13 pm

War Thunder Indian Summer event

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As the British weather turns distinctly autumnal there’s an Indian Summer event going on in War Thunder, the objective being to shoot down massive piles of enemy planes. Not quite sure what the thematic link is, but hey, they’re giving out premium aircraft rewards. Don’t look a gift Typhoon in the radiator chin scoop, as the old saying goes.

The event is on until September 23rd, and there are six levels of reward available for each nation in each realism mode. The first five levels award silver lions (10,000 per level), the sixth level awards 100,000 lions plus a premium aircraft. The planes up for grabs are:

USSR: P-39N-0, Rank 8

Requires 1100 Arcade air kills, 360 Historical Battle air kills or 300 Full Real Battle air kills (while flying Soviet aircraft). The Soviet version of the P-39N is two ranks higher than both the US P-39N and the other Soviet premium Airacobra (P-39K); it’s probably slightly over-ranked, especially compared to the Yak-9, but it was only available in the store during one weekend event previously, hence the high kill requirements. If you like big guns (and you cannot lie) then you could stick it in an arcade line-up with the Yak-9T, Yak-9K, P-39K and P-63A for a whole lot of 37/45mm action, otherwise it’s a bit superfluous.

USA: A-26C-45 Invader, Rank 16

Requires 1100 Arcade air kills, 360 Historical Battle air kills or 300 Full Real Battle air kills (while flying US aircraft). Speaking of over-ranked, the A-26 does have a larger payload than the Rank 5 A-20 and (theoretically) better performance (there seems some debate over whether it’s modelled correctly), but that’s not really enough to justify the dizzying heights of Rank 16. It’s rare, though, previously only available via promotions on Facebook, in magazines etc., so has the joint-highest kill requirements. Unless you’re a dedicated plane collector and must have absolutely everything, I wouldn’t go crazy trying to earn one.

Germany: Fw 190D-13, Rank 14

Requires 900 Arcade air kills, 300 Historical Battle air kills or 250 Full Real Battle air kills (while flying German/Italian aircraft). Available in a decent value gift pack, once upon a time swarms of Doras plagued Historical Battles, swooping down from great height upon Allied aircraft and causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Over various patches the Focke-Wulf’s flight model was tweaked with some extra weight, and other aircraft received performance boosts such as the 150 octane fuel upgrade for the Spitfire Mk IX, and lo, was there much Allied rejoicing. Axis opinion is split between the Fw 190D-13 now being an utterly worthless pile of junk, and being a decent but tricky to master boom-and-zoom fighter, I suspect it’s more the latter but don’t have one myself.

UK: Typhoon Mk Ib, Rank 10

Requires 540 Arcade air kills, 200 Historical Battle air kills or 180 Full Real Battle air kills (while flying UK/Australian/French aircraft). A good choice for British pilots, the Typhoon Ib has decent performance and great firepower from the 4x20mm cannon. It’s not as nimble as a Spitfire, better suited to boom-and-zoom tactics than dogfighting, and is ideal for Historical Battles, or can slot into a nice Arcade lineup with the Spitfire Mks IX and XVI and Mosquito. The Typhoon is part of the Steam Ace Advanced Pack (also includes a Pe-2, 10000 Gold Eagles and two months of premium account time), an excellent value bundle (especially if on sale), so if you’re thinking of shelling out some real money then that’s a good option, but if you can’t or won’t buy a Steam pack then this event is a fine opportunity to pick up a free Typhoon.

Japan: A6M5 Ko, Rank 12

Requires 540 Arcade air kills, 200 Historical Battle air kills or 180 Full Real Battle air kills (while flying Japanese aircraft). Highly manoeuvrable but fragile, a bit slow compared to most opponents of similar rank; I don’t play Japan very much myself, but if you do then the comparative paucity of the Japanese tree probably makes any addition useful. The A6M5 Ko is also in the War Thunder Steam Pack or Pacific Advanced Pack from the web store, presumably why it requires comparatively few kills.

If you really want to earn one of those planes, you’ll need to get flying. You should’ve probably got flying a few days ago when the event started, but barring the invention of a time machine that’s not very useful advice, and if you have a time machine I’m sure there are better things to be doing than playing War Thunder. Unless you’re an ace of such incredible skill that you never die and shoot down innumerable opponents every sortie, the easiest way to rack up kills is “seal clubbing”, flying low level aircraft against less experienced players. The game has some safeguards to protect completely new players, once you’ve passed a certain pilot rank I don’t think you can be matched up against rank 0/1 opponents even if you only equip rank 0 reserves yourself, so assembling a rank 3 lineup is the way to go with as many fighters as you can pack in. Playing at lower levels also means lower repair costs, if you’re constantly playing higher level aircraft somewhat recklessly then the monetary reward from the event might not even cover the repair bills. I do feel a bit guilty about going back to lower levels, but all is fair in love and war, as the LaGG-3 pilot said after tearing apart a poor biplane with 20mm cannon shells. I try not to be a total bastard, there usually seem to be at least a couple of seal clubbers on each team and I’ll go for the higher scoring opponents if I can, but the event does exacerbate the every-man-for-himself nature of Arcade battles. If you’re a brand new player, perhaps consider not buying a Rank 2 aircraft until September 24th.

If you only really enjoy one particular realism mode then you might as well stick to that, but if getting the premium aircraft is the main goal then you may want to record the duration and results of a few matches and use a bit of maths; if, on average, you can get 10 kills per 10 minute Arcade battle then you’ll need to be playing for 18.3 hours over the next couple of weeks for a P-39 or A-26. If in a Historical Battle you average 2 kills and the matches last around 15 minutes then that same plane will take about 45 hours to earn in that mode, bit of a tall order.

Don’t drive yourself mad with grinding, though, the planes are a fine bonus if you’re playing anyway, but you’re not missing out if you haven’t got the time to rack up the requisite kills; enjoy War Thunder responsibly!

Posted by Zoso at 4:21 pm

A Beginner’s Guide to War Thunder, Part 4

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Part 1 got us into our first battle, Part 2 covered the main mission types and Part 3 the aircraft types, in Part 4 we’ll look at upgrading aircraft so they are, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “well blinged up innit?”

When you buy a new plane you might think you’re getting a shiny factory-fresh model in tip-top condition, but I’m afraid that’s not the case; as a rookie you’re assigned a battered old thing that’s had several not-so-careful owners. At least that’s the excuse for why you need to gain experience and spend money to knock out the dents and service the engine…

After a battle, you might see an aeroplane icon on the results screen with a message along the lines of “New modification for Hurricane Mk II: Offensive 7.7mm belts”, indicating there’s an upgrade available for that plane; if you quit a battle before it’s over, the message might appear on the next results screen you see, so it won’t necessarily relate to the aircraft you were just flying.

shot 2013.08.18 17.09.37

To access the upgrade screen click the “Weapons” icon with three bullets, it should have a pulsating gold background if new options are available:
shot 2013.08.18 17.10.07

That should bring up the upgrades:

shot 2013.08.18 17.10.20

The precise options vary from plane to plane; the Hurricane Mk II just has one set of machine guns, other fighters can have weapons of two or three different calibres with separate upgrade options, bombers tend to have turrets, like the Blenheim Mk IV here:

shot 2013.08.15 19.23.33

Across the top of the screen we have the weapons: Offensive Armament (standard guns), Secondary Weapons (bombs, rockets, torpedoes, gun pods), and then the ammunition load of guns and/or turrets. For a brand new plane, you won’t be able to change any of these.

I wouldn’t worry about the two Premium options, purchased with Golden Eagles. “Backup plane” allows you to use the aircraft twice in an Arcade battle, potentially handy if you have a particular favourite but by no means essential. “Talisman” gives an experience bonus for the aircraft, worth considering in the higher ranks, but not so vital at lower levels when experience comes quickly.

Underneath those are the upgrades that are unlocked as you gain experience with the aircraft, four tiers grouped into Flight Performance, Survivability and Weaponry. These upgrades can be bought with silver lions (earned in-game) after you unlock them, but if you really can’t wait you can purchase locked upgrades with gold lions (real money). Hover your mouse over a locked upgrade and a box will show the XP required to unlock it, a “Buy” icon underneath will show the cost in gold lions to immediately purchase it.

Citius, Altius, Fortius

The first two groups allow your plane to fulfil the Olympian ideals of Faster, Higher, Stronger. As the names suggests Flight Performance upgrades to components like the radiator and compressor improve the performance of the aircraft in flight, Survivability options improve your chances of surviving a battle (though really quite marginally, you get a slightly stronger and lighter airframe rather than super-adamantium armour). To see precise details, hover the mouse over an upgrade:

Radiator?  I hardly know 'or!

Radiator? I hardly know ‘or!

In this example cleaning and tuning the radiator increases maximum speed by 4mph and climb rate by 0.1m/s; it’s unlikely you’ll notice a massive difference in a fight, especially in Arcade battles, don’t be too worried about upgraded opponents having an insurmountable advantage, but every little helps. The cumulative effects of a full set of upgrades is more noticeable in Historical and Full Real battles.

Use of Weapons

The Weaponry options are less Olympian in their ideals; “Improved Air-to-Air Combat Effectiveness” isn’t such a catchy motto, even when translated into Latin (Google Translate suggested “A’ris amplio-ad-caeli certamen efficaciam”, and struggled with some of my alternative ideas like “MOAR DAKKA”). There are three main types of weapon upgrades: new guns, ammunition unlocks, and pylons.

New guns, like flight performance components, tend to grant a slight improvement to e.g. reliability or accuracy, useful but not terribly exciting.

Ammunition unlocks tend to be the first weapon upgrade option, “Offensive 7mm” in the above screenshots. Once purchased you can ditch the boring Default ammunition and switch to something crazy like All High Explosive Incendiary Tracer, All The Time (note: not actual name).

Pylons allow you to fit secondary weapons to the aircraft. Most bombers start with a single default bombload, pylon upgrades allow them to carry more or heavier bombs, or alternative secondary weapons like torpedoes. The Blenheim Mk IV starts with 4x250lb bombs, with the MBC-B pylon upgrade it can carry 2x500lb bombs instead:

shot 2013.08.15 19.23.27

Some fighters only have guns, others have pylon upgrades for a fighter/bomber role; the Hurricane Mk II can carry 2x250lb bombs with the HSBC mk.2 upgrade, or 6xRP-6 rockets with the HRC mk.8. Some German aircraft have also recently gained the option to fit additional cannon as secondary weapons, as per Rüstsätze (field modifications), so the range of options are getting wider.

Guns n’ ammo

Once you’ve unlocked new secondary weapons or ammunition belts you can fit them to the aircraft using the drop-down arrows in the bar at the top of the upgrade screen. Note that upgrades are a one-off cost but you have to purchase non-default secondary weapons and ammunition with silver lions each time you use them. Don’t worry too much, though, they’re not particularly expensive, and even if you go on a crazy spending spree and have no money left at all, you can always equip the default options for free.

The types of ammunition available will depend on the weapon calibre and country selected. If you want to see the exact contents of an ammunition belt hover your mouse over it, in this case the British Universal 7.7mm belt:

shot 2013.08.15 19.23.12

Once I’ve got ammunition unlocked I tend to use Universal/Omni-purpose; it’s an improvement over the Default ammunition (the Default 7.7mm belts include Ball rounds, just plain chunks of metal, fine for making small holes in stuff but not very exciting compared to an Amour Piercing Incendiary round), and suitable for both air and ground targets. I haven’t found any particularly good discussions of the relative merits of other ammunition loads, feel free to experiment.

For a bomber you might have a few choices of bombload; the Su-2, for example, can carry 12 x 50kg bombs, or 6 x 100kg, or 2 x 250kg once you’ve unlocked the pylon upgrades. Though, as per the old maxim, quantity has a quality all its own, I tend towards the other maxim that bigger is better. If you can get nicely lined up on a road packed with a column of vehicles it can be glorious to drop a long string of bombs down it, but irritatingly the enemy are seldom generous enough to lay out their forces in nice, geometric, easily bombable patterns. Small bombs (50kg/100lb) have to be very precisely placed, they do little splash damage, larger bombs give you a bit more leeway, particularly useful if you’re intending to bomb from altitude, and some targets need heavy ordnance to destroy them.

Regarding weights, just to confuse things metric and imperial weights are used by different nations (e.g. 250lb bombs on the British Blenheim, 250kg bombs on the Soviet Su-2). 1kg = 2.2lb, so as a very rough rule of thumb you can multiply or divide by 2 to get a general idea of comparative bomb loads, or type a phrase like “500lb in kg” into Google and its handy-dandy converter will give you a more precise figure.

Choose your weapons

After you’ve kitted yourself out with new weapons and ammunition on the upgrade screen, you can change the load of your plane before going into battle. Here’s a spawn screen at the start of a match with our newly upgraded Blenheim:

shot 2013.08.18 16.39.51

Under Secondary Weapons we can choose 2x500lb bombs instead of the default 4x250lb bombs, and we can change the Default shell racks to Omni-purpose. Don’t worry too much about the other settings for now.

Once you have a bit of a feel for different maps and game types, you can tweak which plane you start with and its weapon load. In a Ground Strike battle you might want to start off in a fighter-bomber, head for the nearest ground targets, rattle off a few rockets or bombs, then look out for any friendly bombers who might need an escort; alternatively you could start out in a pure fighter, skip the secondary weapons for optimum performance, and climb up to high altitude in case an enemy heavy bomber is lurking up there going for your airfield. In a Domination battle you could start in your lowest rank fighter and have a crack at capturing the closest airfield (lowest rank so it isn’t too great a loss if you misjudge the approach and crash a bit), or pick a bomber, head for the enemy airfield as fast as possible and hope to catch one or two of the capturing team on the ground.

So that covers trivial things like the weapons load of your plane, Part 5 covers a far more important feature: painting your aircraft, along with a general wrap-up of crew skills, premium options and the like.

Posted by Zoso at 1:25 pm
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