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

There is an inevitable divergence between the world as it is and the world as men perceive it

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Finally, the British have arrived in World of Tanks. In a conventional World War II game it would obviously be the work of a deranged madman to include non-existent French tanks before the sturdy tea-boilers of the good old UK, so World of Tanks is clearly an alternate history game. I reckon the point of divergence in the Tankiverse was that Britain and France didn’t declare war on Germany when it invaded Poland, so the Phoney War was the shaky preservation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact until May 1940, at which point Hitler strikes east instead of west, launching World of Tanks with its German and Soviet vehicles. Shortly after, the United States enters the war; this is where things get a bit tricky. Japan aren’t involved yet, presumably waiting until World of Warplanes and World of Warships to stage Pearl Harbor having ruled out the possibility of building a really, really long bridge to kick things off with tanks, so that’s not the catalyst. With elections being a bit topical and all, then: George S. Patton gets bored, secures the Republican nomination for the 1940 election, sweeps to victory, and decides to invade Russia. Via Alaska. Entirely plausible (for very small values of “entirely”). That gets us to the EU/US launch of World of Tanks, with added American tanks.

In this world the UK, rather than the US, adopts an isolationist stance. The French are biding their time, still miffed because they didn’t get Alsace-Lorraine back after World War I for terribly good reasons that I can’t be bothered to make up, eventually launching an invasion to reclaim their territory with a bunch of stupid prototype tanks in Operation: Patch 7.1 during January 2012 (or July 1941 by the Tankiverse calendar). Fighting a two-front war, the Germans formulate a cunning plan: elite Brandenburgers capture a French submarine and torpedo a convoy of Darjeeling bound for Liverpool in June 1942, a date that will live in leaf-infusion infamy. This is too much for the Brits, who kick out Chamberlain or Attlee or some bloke like that, elect Churchill, and storm onto the Normandy beaches. Voila! Germany vs the USSR vs America vs France vs the UK. Watch out for a Kickstarter campaign soon for the tie-in novel, “A Bunch Of Countries Fight Each Other For Some Reason But Only With Tanks And This And That”.

Posted by Zoso at 4:43 pm

A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon

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World of Tanks has had a couple of big updates recently. 7.0, just before Christmas, introduced a couple of new maps, cosmetic camouflage and a host of tweaks. The main addition in 7.1, released yesterday, is French tanks to fight alongside the existing German, Russian and US vehicles.

Now I’m not some sort of ultra-grognard demanding a completely realistic recreation of World War II down to the rivet, there were already plenty of experimental, prototype, theoretical and/or post-war AFVs in World of Tanks especially in the latter tiers, but the ever-so-slight problem with French tanks is there was a bit of an unscheduled interruption in development and production from 1940 to 1945, so almost everything in the game past Tier II is especially experimental, theoretical and/or post-war, which doesn’t quite feel right. Course there’s a slight element of nationalism here, as for some reason the French tanks have gone in before a full British (or Commonwealth) tree; granted the UK turned out some pretty poor tanks (and some obsolescent tanks that might have been quite good had they gone into service a couple of years earlier, which World of Tanks should make up for with its tiered battles), but at least they existed…

As if to mollify me, the WoT team have given everyone a British tank as a present; apply the code “NEWYEAREU” to your account for a free Tetrarch (“NEWYEARNA” for US players). Like the Valentine, Matilda and Churchill it’s flagged as Russian due to lend-lease, but I’ll take it. It’s a bit of a comedy tank, the real thing notable mostly for being landed by glider during the invasion of Normandy despite being obsolete, but as it’s classed as a Tier II vehicle in WoT it gets to frolic with other early war light tanks instead of late model PzKpfw IVs and StuGs.

I’ve been playing quite a lot of low tier battles in over the past months. Since my last update I’ve been hopping on a few times a week, but fun as the average fight is, they’re not terribly blogworthy (“Dear diary, today I shot an enemy tank with my gun. Then I shot another enemy tank with my gun. Then an enemy tank shot me with its gun. I exploded. The end.”) I haven’t bought any more gold since that post, and upgraded to Tier VIII vehicles in both my lines of choice (the IS-3 and ISU-152), which took a few million credits. It’s an expensive business, fighting at Tier VIII; repair costs are hefty, often more than your winnings, and even stocking up on ammunition puts a hefty dent in the wallet. I’m trying to figure out a way of converting the ISU-152 to use some form of trebuchet to fling light tanks, as I reckon they’re cheaper to buy than 152mm shells… There are several ways to fund yourself; lower tier tanks almost always make a profit, so can be worth keeping around even after you upgrade. Gold can be converted to credits for an instant hit, or used to buy Premium status that boosts credit and XP earnings for each match. Premium tanks can be also purchased with gold and offer good credit-earning potential, especially the Tier VIII vehicles. Gankalicious was splendid enough to pass on a code for a T-127, a Premium Tier III light tank, which doesn’t rack up massive cash but gives a nice boost, and I’ve got the Tier II Tetrarch as well now.

As well as turning a profit, low tier fights are generally a bit more relaxed and fast-paced. Tense battles of careful positioning and manoeuvre are great, but after a couple it’s nice just to tear across a map at high speed, possibly exclaiming “woot!” or sounding a novelty tank horn on the way (oddly enough, horns were included in the 7.0 testing as gold-purchasable “cosmetic” items… I’m not sure if any played Dixie or La Cucuracha, but for some reason they didn’t seem to go down too well and weren’t pushed live…) Though there’s always action of some sort across all the tiers the introduction of new tanks unleashes an impressive horde of starter vehicles, so if you were thinking of having another look at the game, or starting from scratch, it’s a particularly good time to hop in and join the low-tier French madness.

Posted by Zoso at 12:29 pm

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be

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I’ve been running World of Tanks as a Premium player for the past four or five months, a subscription-ish option that gives a 50% bonus to XP and credits at the end of each match. You buy in-game gold with real money, then buy Premium status (for 1, 3, 7 or 30 days) with that gold, so the exact price per month depends on how much gold you buy in the first place and how long you opt for Premium status. As with so many digital currency systems the more gold you buy the less it costs per unit, thus you can argue you’re saving money by spending more in the first place, but unless you have great self-control then the more gold you have kicking around the easier it is to succumb to the temptation of using it to just upgrade the training on a couple of your tank crew, oh and convert some into credits to fund a new tank, and heck why not buy one of those premium tanks while we’re here… You can use that as further proof of the Satanic corrupting nature of hell-spawn microtransactions if you really want, but it’s hardly different from picking up a kilogram bag of pistachio nuts instead of one or two smaller packs, convincing yourself you’ll just have a handful now and again, and winding up on the sofa that night with an empty bag, surrounded by shells, trying to use a remote control as a makeshift nutcracker to get into those last few nuts that didn’t open properly.

Keeping up Premium status (plus some experience conversion and the odd credit splurge) has cost me about £50 since launch, which is pretty reasonable with no initial box fee, especially for the amount I’ve been playing (1,500-odd battles so far), I certainly don’t begrudge what I’ve spent, but as the Premium counter ticked down at the start of this week and I contemplated buying another pack of gold to top it up I’d been thinking about pricing, and I decided to hold off and see how things work out as a completely free player.

I’ve generally been slowing down a bit anyway; after darting around various tank types over all three nationalities up to Tier IV or V I’ve settled on two main vehicles, a Russian Tier VII tank destroyer (SU-152) and heavy tank (IS), and a daily routine: get in from work, switch on Pointless (a rather fun BBC quiz show) and try and get one win with each tank. The game and quiz complement each other nicely; Pointless, like just about every quiz show bar University Challenge and Mastermind, drags everything out with jingles, rules explanations, deliberations over answers and awkward chats with the contestants, and each World of Tanks match starts with a 30 second countdown then a lot of cautious manoeuvring for position, unless someone goes a bit mental and heads straight for the enemy at top speed. The multitasking does break down occasionally; “Argh, I’m sure I can name the band most associated with each of those seven guitarists but I can’t quite place Thurston Moore just at this moment while I’m sorting out the VK3601 threatening our right flank”, but generally it works out. If fate is kind and I get a couple of quick wins with the main tanks without punching the screen in instant death and/or idiot team frustration I’ll move on to one of my lower tier elite tanks to earn a few more credits and free XP, then wander off to something else for the rest of the evening.

Lack of the Premium XP bonus means upgrades will take a bit longer, but with each tank needing something like 80,000XP to move on to the Tier VIII ISU-152 or IS-3 it’s hardly a short-term goal, “a really, really long time” doesn’t seem that much longer than “a really long time” according to international standards of vague durational estimates. I’ll probably get there, in a month or two, but in the meantime it’s just about the individual battles rather than the advancement. The lack of a credit bonus isn’t too much of a problem either, for now; I can lose credits in a bad match if my tank gets destroyed and I fired a bunch of shells with little effect (heavy calibre ammo is pricey!), but for the most part I at least break even with the main tanks, and the SU-85 earns a handy profit. I might need to revisit the situation with a Tier VIII tank as they’re even more pricey to repair and rearm, and I’ll probably have to look at turning some gold into credits to actually afford a new tank in the first place; I funded a good chunk of the IS by selling off a few Tier V and VI tanks I was hardly playing, and also discovered that when you upgrade a component like an engine or gun the old item is shoved in your Depot. If you go to the Depot screen there’s an option to list shells or equipment not compatible with your current tanks, so I took everything to a nearby car park had a massive Tank Boot Sale, haggling with old ladies over the price (“No, madam, that is an 8.8 cm Kampfwagenkanone 36 L/56 and is most certainly worth considerably more than three credits.”)

Overall I’m happy for the time being to keep plinking away in a non-Premium fashion, though I’m certain will end up with more of my cash at some point if they continue their sensible pricing, either for upgrades in World of Tanks or when one of their new games comes along; maybe World of Warplanes but World of Battleships could really hit the spot. I mean a 3″ gun is all right, but a 15″ gun chucking the best part of a ton of shell over 20 miles, now we’re talking…

Posted by Zoso at 12:24 pm

Some people say that rappers are invincible; we’re vincible

games, world of tanks, zoso 4 Comments »

World of Tanks has a number of achievements in the form of medals, much like good old Microprose flight sims. Some are based on career totals of kills, victories etc., others on performance in a single battle.

Individual rewards or achievements can cause friction in team-based games. In World of Warcraft the School of Hard Knocks achievement can play havoc with the usual battleground dynamics; in the real world you might see similar results in a football match if you offered a hefty sum of cash (that couldn’t be shared with team-mates) to anyone who scored a goal (or try/touchdown/point/behind, depending on your local interpretation of football). Fortunately World of Tanks is pretty straightforward, you win a match by either killing all opponents or capturing their base, and you get rewarded with XP and credits for killing (or damaging, or locating) opponents and capturing their base, there isn’t really any conflict there, and medals just show up in your statistics rather than granting any sort of bonus. During the beta there was a myth that killing all 15 opponents netted some sort of bonus, so if you were in a decent position with only one or two enemy tanks left and someone started capturing their base then people would start shrieking “DON’T CAP” in chat and getting frightfully annoyed, to the point of actually shooting a team-mate in a couple of instances I saw, but thankfully that got straightened out and I’ve never seen it happen in the live game. Individual glory-hunting tends to get you killed in pretty short order, and with no respawns it’s a good incentive to at least try and work together. Course there are more than ample opportunities for fifteen random non-communicating strangers to employ wildly sub-optimal overall tactics, but at least they’re doing it of their own accord rather than being channelled that way by in-game achievements.

I’ve got a reasonable smattering of awards; a fair few Top Gun medals for killing six or more tanks (all right so half of them are from a BT-2, picking on poor little Tier I tanks), a decent number of Sniper medals for an 85% hit rate from 10 or more shots (though progressively fewer as gun calibre, and consequently reload time, has increased; I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to get ten shots off with a 152mm gun in one battle, let alone hit with nine of them), the odd Invader and Defender medal for capturing or preventing capture of a base respectively (I even managed once, by fluke, to get the Raider medal for capturing a base without ever being discovered, in a Tier I/II fight where the entire enemy team pelted off down one flank while I advanced alone up the other). I haven’t received a Confederate medal for a while, for damaging six or more tanks that others kill, I think I got all of mine in Tier I or II with a 20mm or 23mm cannon equipped (low damage but great rate of fire), but there are two Battle Hero medals that have completed eluded me so far. One is Scout, for detecting nine or more enemy tanks, not a great surprise with scouting not being my forte, the other is Steel Wall, for being hit at least 11 times during a battle and (the bit I’m having trouble with) surviving. Though theoretically possible to achieve with anything, obviously it’s easiest in a heavy tank matched up against mostly lower tier opposition, and I’m a bit of a late convert to heavies having only acquired the KV and KV-3 quite recently. There have been a couple of battles where I managed the requisite 11 hits, but there was always a 12th, or 18th, to finish me off, though I’m sure it’ll come along at some point now I’m focusing on the Russian heavy tree. In the meantime I keep forgetting that the gun isn’t the only way of causing damage, maybe time to try for the Kamikaze medal for destroying a higher tier tank by ramming. Banzai!

Posted by Zoso at 8:40 pm

You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quincunx

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I’m Mr Average in World of Tanks. Or pretty close to it, at least; by win/loss record slightly ahead (52% wins), by kills per match slightly behind (around 0.93). Actually, hang on, matches never end with 30 total kills (unless there’s one person left on each team and they knock each other out at the same time; not completely impossible, especially with artillery, but highly unlikely) so 1.0 won’t be the average there… Anyway, I reckon I’m pretty near the centre of the bell curve. Though as kills per match has a lower bound of zero and a theoretical upper bound of 15 that probably won’t have a symmetric distribution around the average, is that still a bell curve? Or a bell-that’s-been-hit-on-one-side-with-a-hammer-a-few-times curve? I should’ve paid more attention in maths.

Normal distribution presents an interesting way of looking at the usual random World of Tanks match. There’s a device, the “bean machine” or Quincunx, that visually demonstrates normal distribution by bouncing marbles off pins, a bit like Peggle without the talking unicorns and score boosters. Think of your tank as a marble that rolls into the top of the machine at the start of a battle, with each pin a contributing factor to the outcome; the first pin you hit is the balance, their side has better specced tanks you bounce to the left, your side is better you bounce to the right. Next pin is tactics, if your team covers all the defensive avenues and mounts one concentrated assault then you bounce to the right, if 13 tanks bugger off down one flank of the map leaving you and a lonely SPG defending the centre and the other flank then you bounce to the left. Someone on your side quits or loses connection so that tank bursts into flames: bounce to the left, it happens to one of their team bounce: to the right. An enemy shell glances off your armour, bounce to the right, it knocks out your track, bounce to the left. Down you go, eventually landing up in one of the collection bins at the bottom.

Label those bins “Complete disaster, no kills, knocked out in one shot, team lose 2 – 15″ at the far left, “Glorious triumph, 7 kills, team win 15-3″ on the far right, various intermediary results on the way, and I reckon that’s a pretty decent representation of my experiences, with most balls falling somewhere in the middle (close win or loss, 0 or 1 kills). Obviously not everything is random, you have control over your own tank at least, so maybe Peggle is a good comparison after all where you choose where the ball starts, but that’s not a massive factor in the overall result. Also like Peggle it’s easy to attribute a good result to your incredible skill and a poor result to bad luck (or the rest of your team being morons).

Probably the most frequent gripe about World of Tanks, mine included, is getting shoved into matches against much more powerful tanks where they can destroy you with a single shell, but you need a lucky shot to even cause slight damage to them. It’s the equivalent of that bit in a cartoon where the Comedy Sidekick furiously attacks some giant fiend or invulnerable robot, who doesn’t even notice for about five seconds then glances around and swats the irritant away with a backhanded slap. Mental note: make suggestion to World of Tanks devs to add comedy “wah wah waaaaah” sound effect when you get knocked out by a +3 tier tank, and add a slowly spinning circle of stars and tweeting birds over your burned-out hulk.

Tobold raised the subject in his recent interview that focused on matchmaking, with the reply:

“We know it can be frustrating to get thrown into a battle where you’re the lowest tank by several tiers, so matchmaking improvements are high on our radar. But we also know that players don’t just want to be killed once for each enemy tank they destroy, they want to dominate the battlefield. For true balance, this means that every time a player gets 5 kills, they should end five battles wrecked without having eliminated any enemy vehicles.”

So it’s a deliberate decision (obviously enough, with the matchmaking system going through various iterations), and more importantly, from the perspective of my stats at least, one that works. I have got a few Top Gun awards from finishing a battle with 6 or more kills (granted about half with a BT-2 when bullying poor new Tier I tanks, but some with the SU-85 as well), and those battles do feel great; I still treasure the crowning glory of one fight on the Steppes where I fired six shots in total and got six kills. You still need to randomly bounce off a few pegs the right way, but I had a decent head start in that battle with most of the opposition a tier or two below me (and a heavy tank of the same tier that was damaged enough by the time I got to him that he also only needed a single shot). Would I sacrifice the triumphs (and, indeed, huge successes) for a few less frustrating encounters? After three impotent deaths in a row when ready to punch the screen I probably would, but over time I find the bad and mediocre tend to blur into forgetfulness, but that time that four tanks drove straight into your sights, one after another, with just the right gap between them for your gun to reload, that sticks around.

Posted by Zoso at 2:51 pm

It was the best of tanks, it was the worst of tanks

world of tanks, zoso 1 Comment »

The Google Books service includes archives of a number of magazines, a fascinating resource covering a variety of subjects. I’ve been rummaging through the back catalogue of Popular Science in particular, starting with the first issue from May 1872, ready to mock some dead scientists and their quaint ideas from the smug perspective of the internet generation, but the very first paragraph of the first page, from Herbert Spencer’s The Study of Sociology, is:

“Over his pipe in the village ale-house, the laborer says very positively what Parliament should do about the “foot and mouth disease”. At the farmer’s market-table his master makes the glasses jingle as, with his fist, he emphasizes the assertion that he did not get half enough compensation for his slaughtered beasts during the cattle-plague.”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, huh. About the only difference today would be the labourer having to enjoy his pipe outside the ale-house due to the smoking ban. In October 1872 one of the articles is “Has our climate changed?” (unfortunately missing the first page or two); I know history repeats itself, but not necessarily verbatim. There is some fun to be had, especially after 1915 when the name transferred to another publishing group and the content became aimed at a more general audience; page 857 of the June 1918 issue cautions “Don’t go parachuting unless you are equipped with the proper kind of breeches”:

“In order to check the constantly increasing number of fatal aeronautical accidents a humane inventor has patented a pair of parachute breeches. Will they prevent your being dashed to the ground? We don’t know. The fabric, cut and workmanship are matters of choice, and your tailor will be pleased to suit your particular form and taste.”

What really kicked this off was that I’d been Googling around some tank-related material; as Warsyde notes World of Tanks seems to be pretty historically accurate, from my amateur grognard perspective, generally aligning with records and testimony (at the individual tank level, that is; there were very few actual engagements where a mix of 15 Russian, German and US tanks took on 15 other Russian, German and US tanks in a two mile square area enclosed by mysterious force-fields). I’m familiar with most production armoured vehicles of WWII but World of Tanks expands its tech trees with experimental and prototype models, so with the recent introduction of US tank destroyers I was digging around for some more details, and Popular Science had a couple of contemporaneous articles. “Big Guns Stalk Their Targets” from July 1943 is all about self-propelled artillery, emphasising early American work on SPGs, but doesn’t have anything on the prototypes used as Tier 2, 3 and 4 vehicles in WoT. A few months earlier, in March 1943, another article proudly proclaimed “Why America’s Tanks Are The World’s Best” as the M4 Sherman rolled off the production lines in increasing numbers.

Now you expect a touch of patriotism, if not outright jingoism, during a war, and the article wasn’t exactly wrong in trumpeting the more powerful gun, heavier armour and faster speeds of the Sherman compared to the German Panzers it had faced in the North African desert; it’s reflected in World of Tanks, with the early Sherman being a Tier 5 medium tank, and the Africa Korps were mostly equipped with Panzer IIIs (Tier 4 medium) and early mark Panzer IVs (with short 75mm howitzers that aren’t represented in WoT; the Tier 5 Panzer IV in the game starts with the long-barrel 75mm gun of the Ausf. F2/G, very few of which made it to North Africa). As the article boldly notes:

“In building tanks with which to equip their panzer divisions the Nazis concentrated on quantity rather than quality. They won the early armored battles of the war not because they had better tanks than the British and French, but because they had many more of them at the important spots and because they handled them much better. The tanks they are using today were designed in 1936, and there have been almost no improvements in them since the beginning of the war.”

Slightly unfortunate timing of the article, really, for though the Panzer III and IV were indeed showing their age in 1943, Panzer divisions were starting to get kitted out with the Tiger I (Tier 7 WoT heavy) and Panther (Tier 8 medium), and though an up-gunned Sherman M4A3E8 was introduced in 1944 (bumping it up to Tier 6 in WoT), armoured battles in Western Europe after D-Day were frequently the mirror of the above, the Allies having the numbers (and artillery and air support) to counter individually superior German tanks.

The perceived supremacy of the Sherman resulted in a degree of complacency in the development of subsequent tanks such that only a handful of Pershing heavy tanks (a Tier 8 medium in WoT) entered US service in time to see action, with LIFE magazine of March 1945 highlighting the problems faced by late-war American tank crews in “The Battle of the Tanks” on page 41, comparing the Sherman to Russian and German heavy tanks. I’m sure most World of Tanks players know the depressing feeling of entering a battle in a Tier 5 or 6 medium tank and facing a Royal Tiger (Tiger II, German Tier 8 heavy) or Stalin (IS2, Russian Tier 8 heavy), though on the plus side the worst that can happen is not getting many experience points as opposed to dying horribly in a flaming metal coffin.

Not the most cheery of endings, that, so why not flip back to page 2 of that issue of LIFE and enjoy the advert for Munsingwear “stretchy-seat” underwear for men of action. The seat alone is worth the price of admission!

Posted by Zoso at 8:22 am

There seems to be something wrong with our bloody tanks today

games, world of tanks, zoso 6 Comments »

World of Tanks, as with any PvP game, can be incredibly frustrating; after the third or fourth round of your tank exploding before you’ve even seen an opponent, or ineffectually bouncing a couple of shells off an opponent and then exploding, or having the track of your turretless vehicle shot off so that all you can do is wave your gun around as ineffectually as a Dalek with two plungers before exploding, the dignified course of action would be to make a wry observation to the rest of the team like “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody tanks today“. If human avatars are ever introduced, though, I suspect a more common reaction would be to grab a branch and give the useless lump of metal a damn good thrashing.

Those results are often caused by the matchmaking system deciding it’s really funny to stick you in matches with tanks two or even three tiers above you (if it helps, imagine the matchmaking is being done by SHODAN or GLaDOS; “Look at you, tanker. A pathetic creature of meat and bone, panting and sweating in your tin can. How can you challenge a perfect, immortal Tier X Heavy?”) When you’re up against a heavy Tier V KV in your light Tier III tank the KV is an unstoppable iron monster, and it’s easy to become fixated on getting one yourself as quickly as possible so finally you can turn the tables and beat up bullies ’til they cry “Oh lah! Oh, crikey! Let go, you rotter! Don’t punish me!“. In the research tree of most tanks you can work on a range of upgrades to the engine, tracks, radio, gun and turret, or ignore everything except a mandatory upgrade or two and focus on building up the experience to unlock a tank in the next tier. If you do the latter, struggle through mismatch after mismatch until finally you unlock the KV and scrape together the credits to buy one, the matchmaking system will probably giggle and send Iosif Stalin to obliterate you (the Tier VII tank, not the bloke, this isn’t Stalin vs. Martians). To exacerbate the mismatch your KV is showroom fresh; on the plus side that means it has immaculate paintwork and that New Tank Smell(tm), on the minus side the starting gun is an adequate 75mm rather than the lethal 107mm or comedy 152mm you probably kept being killed by in the past, and the starting powerplant is a lawnmower engine. There’s always something bigger around the corner, at least until you get right up to the highest tiers.

Chopping and changing tanks isn’t a problem in the first few tiers, especially as you try out the different play styles, but around Tier IV and particularly Tier V investing time and in-game money is well worth it. With the money you earn in Tier V the 20,000 credits to instantly train a crewman up to 75% is much more affordable, and the number of battles you’ll need to play keeps crew experience increasing, improving the performance of most facets of the tank. Upgrading components can also make all the difference, as in Warsyde’s post.

I’ve been following the Soviet tank destroyer line, and on the SU-85 I was contemplating skipping the 107mm gun upgrade in order to get to the SU-100 more quickly. That would’ve been a terrible, terrible mistake; the 107mm gun is classified as Tier VII, with reasonable accuracy, decent penetration and great damage. It can take out lower tier tanks in a single shot, chew big chunks out of KV and T1 heavies, and at least cause damage to most higher tier tanks you’ll face (though something like an IS-3 still shrugs off frontal shots). It’s a bit fragile, but with a low profile you’ll normally get the first shot in so long as you’re careful. Apparently Tier V is the optimal point for earning money (before that you don’t earn so much, after that repair and ammunition costs really stack up), and once a tank is Elite status you can bank up a nice pool of experience, if you don’t mind spending a bit of real money for gold. That free experience pool can then really help out when you do want to step up a tier, allowing you to quickly upgrade some key components so you’re not completely useless. There are plenty of well-regarded tanks in Tier V, so if you’re not an aficionado already trundling around in a Tiger, I’d suggest picking a Tier V tank that suits your style and sticking with it, developing the crew up, and keeping it around as a nice money and experience earner.

Posted by Zoso at 6:37 pm


world of tanks, zoso 5 Comments »

In perhaps the tank-iest news of the week, World of Tanks is going to be at the Bovington Tank Museum Tankfest later this month. The Tank Museum is always a fantastic day out for military history buffs with a superb collection of vehicles, and Tankfest is even tank-ier with displays and armour on the move. This year the unique Tortoise is running for the first time in 60 years, hopefully the World of Tanks developers will be gathering plenty of material for including it as a late-tier tank destroyer when the British tech tree is added to the game.

If anyone fancies a day trip as part of a couple or family where perhaps not everyone would be completely enthralled by tanks, tanks and then a few more tanks, the museum is pretty much next to Monkey World for those who prefer primates to panzers. I still think they could combine the two in a “Monkeys in Tanks” exhibition of some kind…

I went to Tankfest quite a few years back, WoT players will be pretty familiar with some of the vehicles they had running:

Matilda II

Panzer III


And as a particular treat, although it was thought that no examples of the experimental Leichttraktor survived, we can see here a fine preserved specimin of that iconic Tier I tank having a bit of trouble fording a river:

stock image
Image by – gratuit

Posted by Zoso at 9:33 am

The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older

games, world of tanks, zoso 6 Comments »

One of the joys of gaming is the scope, from immersing yourself deeply in a virtual world or taking centre stage in an epic story to blowing stuff up and giggling. With generally smaller chunks of available time recently I’ve been erring towards the latter rather than the former, as MMOGs do tend to need a good hour or three to get anywhere, especially if coordinating with others. Just firing up Age of Conan, the launcher seemed to spend an interminable time on some internal check before it even gave the option of a “Start” button to load the game. It’s one of those relative things, almost certainly seconds rather than minutes (I never thought to get a stopwatch on it), hardly an issue like reaching level three of Operation Wolf on the Amstrad CPC464 when the joy of beating that git boss in the jungle was tempered by the knowledge you had to press “Play” and wait another few minutes for the next level to load, die in 30 seconds and have to rewind for level one again, but when you want to get on and play something then the fewer barriers the better. The prosecution presents Borderlands, m’lud, which decides you need to sit through three or four short videos of company logos with no way of skipping them until you either make an arcane tweak in some .ini file to disable them, or smash your PC with a massive hammer screaming “I THINK YOU’LL FIND *THIS* IS THE WAY IT’S MEANT TO BE PLAYED”. I like to think of it as recognition of time as a commodity that seemed endless as a child but becomes more precious with each passing year, but maybe it’s just a symptom of the ever-declining attention span of the human race as we desperately paw at flashing screens for constant stimulation, ideally involving cats and pianos

For rapid action I’ve tended to opt for a quick mission or two in Just Cause 2, or more often a few battles in World of Tanks. Both start up and get you into some action with minimal faff; with about three clicks from the desktop World of Tanks will get you into a fight; an inconsequential fight in the grand scheme of things, unless you’re engaging in the clan warfare system that involves controlling territory (I’m not, sounds a bit like hard work really), but immediately absorbing. If anything I wouldn’t mind it taking ever so slightly longer over the matchmaking; the current system seems a touch broad, especially in the latter tiers. It’s probably selective memory, like the other queue at the supermarket always moving quicker, but I seem to end up on the bottom of a three or four tier spread of tanks more often than the top. Sometimes you also end up with a tank you just don’t get on with; I thought I’d work towards the Panther, being such an iconic tank and all, and recently bought a VK3001(P) German tier VI medium tank to find it starts out with a distinctly underwhelming gun that barely damages stuff in its own tier, let alone tier VIII Super Beasts of Doom. Course I can’t upgrade it straight away, better guns need a new turret that costs a stack of experience, which will no doubt need the tracks to be upgraded as well… That said I have killed one Tiger I with it, but only because it was hiding behind a giant rock with two of our team on the other side; as it started edging one way around to confront my comrade I nipped around the other and shot it at point blank range in the weak rear armour for about 10% damage, while the other friendly tank reversed to keep out of the way of the main gun, causing the Tiger to advance further while I kept behind it getting another shot or two off; he then started turning his turret (fortunately quite slowly) so I reversed out of the way and the other friendly tank advanced to get a couple of shots as we coordinated tactics like the military wing of the Chuckle Brothers; “to me, to you”…

Teams as a whole tend to balance out though, like Tobold and Warsyde I’m finding the overall results are ending up near 50/50. I suspect you could boost your chances by playing with friends in a platoons, though not massively as platoons are limited to three members in 15-a-side battles. I’ve managed to team up a few times rather splendidly with fellow bloggers & commenters, though the chat system is a bit low-key, starting a new minimised window at the bottom of the screen that I’ve completely missed several times when jumping straight from battle to battle. Still, I’ve found the general players in random matches pretty decent on the whole, only once in hundreds of battles have team-mates really got on my wick when I managed a dazzling flanking manoeuvre, took out a couple of SPGs in the base before being finished off by a tank destroyer, and the two heavy tanks who could’ve swept in and easily destroyed the last couple of enemy units were bickering in chat about who’d got in whose way and alt-tabbing to post on the forums about the heinous slight. Course there’s always a few people who get frustrated and helpfully let everyone know their death was entirely the fault of their LOL NOOB IDIOT TEAM, often directing their wrath at those most foul cowards the “campers” (more irregular verbs: I painstakingly select an optimal tactical position for a masterful ambush, you hang around at the back and snipe, he is a camping lamer). They probably intend it as a mortal insult, but being a child of the 80s I can’t help but associate “campers” with Ruth Madoc and a chime bar and have to suppress the urge to reply “ho-de-ho!”

I’d still like to get over to Evendim in LotRO, and shift a load of structures around to set up a large shipyard in PotBS, and possibly even log in to Star Trek Online that I couldn’t help but pick up in the recent Steam sale, but first just a couple more matches on the long road to getting an 88mm gun on that VK3001(P)…

Posted by Zoso at 4:19 pm
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